More stories

  • in

    What to Do if You’re Living Paycheck to Paycheck

    If it seems like your paycheck is disappearing right before your eyes and you’re always anxiously awaiting your next payday, you’re familiar with the feeling of stretching a dollar to its limits. The anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck is unnerving. Unfortunately, many of us have been there, and sometimes, at no fault of our own. Living from paycheck to paycheck might leave you to think that you are spending unwisely, but you may just need to fine-tune your expenses, set a budget, and take a closer look at what’s coming out and going into your bank account each payday. You deserve to see the fruits of your hard-earned money, not watch it go by while living on pins and needles financially until your next payday rolls in. 
    There are no shortcuts or secrets on how to maintain a healthy relationship with your money to avoid living from paycheck to paycheck, but you can be better equipped to make your money last longer and work smarter for you. Here are a few tips you can use if you are struggling to make ends meet in between paydays.
    Evaluate your expenses 
    Your expenses are usually the biggest culprit as to why you might be living paycheck to paycheck. Expenses often include fixed bills like your rent or mortgage, car payments, utilities, and other living expenses that don’t fluctuate much month-by-month, and variable expenses like transportation costs, dining and eating out, your personal care expenses, and other costs that can easily increase or decrease, depending on your personal spending. 
    Take a closer look at all of your expenses, down to the dollar, to evaluate where your money is truly going—even after you’ve paid all of your bills. This will help you map out how little or how much money is being spent after every paycheck. What is being spent each paycheck on food, drinks, living expenses, and other personal items? Write down how much you’re spending on a daily basis after each paycheck has hit your bank account. 
    As you assess your expenses on a paycheck-by-paycheck basis, evaluate what’s being spent and how much is going out, especially if you’ve set up auto-pay on any of your bills. Are you finding that your cable bill or your online subscriptions are going up each month? If you have these services on auto-pay, don’t continue to set and forget them. Make sure to skim through the breakdown of your bills each month to make sure you aren’t paying more than you should. 
    Another part of your expenses is how much is being taken out of your paycheck each pay for taxes, health, dental insurance, and retirement. It’s important to keep track of your contributions and elections for each to see if you can save any extra dollars by modifying your deductions. It’s best to consult with your Human Resources team or personal finance advisor about ways you can save money being taken out of your paycheck. 
    Evaluating your expenses can be cringeworthy, making you take a hard, honest look at your finances and addressing how you’re spending your money, but it’ll help you gain more control over where your hard-earned money is going to help you better manage it. 

    Now Available: The Everygirl 2021 Planners!

    Use a budgeting app 
    There’s no shortage of budgeting tools and apps on the market that can help you track and control your spending so that you can stop living from paycheck to paycheck. There are a wide variety of budgeting apps to choose from that can fit your financial situation and personal preferences, from apps that track your daily spending straight from your linked bank account to ones that let you manually track your expenses yourself. Many of these apps also offer tips and ways you can help curb your spending by grouping your transactions into categories so that you can easily visualize how much you’re spending in each area of your life, from shopping to bills and utilities. 
    From the EveryDollar app to You Need A Budget (YNAB), these device-friendly apps are designed to keep you on top of your spending and expenses in an easily accessible way. Stop living from paycheck to paycheck by using a budgeting tool to monitor your expenses and track where your money ends up after getting paid. Look at it as your accountability partner, reminding you to give every dollar a job, spend more wisely, and prepare for those unexpected expenses before they siphon your paycheck. 

    Consider a side hustle 
    Sometimes, no matter how much you try to make your check stretch after payday, one job may not be enough to cover all of your expenses, especially if you’re facing a financial hardship. If your schedule permits, pick up a side gig, as increasing your income might help alleviate some of the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. 
    Assess your personal and work schedules to see if picking up another source of income can work for you. If you have a specific skill or are trained in a specific field or trade, find a side job that will accommodate what you already have knowledge or experience in and what might fit your schedule. From freelancing to customer service to project-based jobs, there are many ways to make money on the side to offset any loss of income. Make sure your side hustle fits your lifestyle and is budgeted into your already-existing expenses, and that it doesn’t tempt you into adding more expenses to your budget. 

    Source: Abigail Yonker

    Downsize your lifestyle 
    After evaluating your bills and expenses, it may be time to cut some of your spending and downsize where you can to give yourself more room in between paychecks. 
    A great place to start is your personal spending. Are you able to cut out a few trips to Starbucks or on online shopping? Are you able to save a few extra dollars by doing your own hair and nails or working out at home instead of paying for the gym? See where you can cut back on your personal spending in a few areas like food, drinks, personal care, and entertainment—a few spending categories most people end up overspending each month.  
    Next, try evaluating ways you can save a few extra dollars by downsizing your living if possible, cutting back on what you spend on wants vs. needs each paycheck. This could include your cable and internet services, subscriptions you barely use, and other various services you could possibly live without. Find ways to share these services with friends and family and split the cost of them to help free up some money for you. 

    Don’t skimp on saving
    Even though living from paycheck to paycheck can be daunting, no matter how tight your wallet gets, don’t forget to budget in money for savings. It might be tempting to forget or push off saving due to the stress of taking care of bills and other expenses, but saving is a very important tool to help you get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. 
    Set aside a few dollars each paycheck to go straight into your savings automatically before any spending. Saving first before spending helps you set aside your hard-earned money for emergencies or future expenses so that you’re not using your last dollar solely on paying bills with nothing to fall back on. Even if it’s only small amounts here and there, each payday, designate a portion of your check to yourself in a savings account. Paying yourself first is one of the most important steps in managing your money wisely. 

    How do you avoid living from paycheck-to-paycheck? More

  • in

    6 Changes I’ve Made on My Journey to Being Debt-Free

    Last summer, in the midst of planning a wedding and a cross-country move, I found myself in a real financial mess. While I wasn’t delinquent on payments or behind on my rent, I had no clue how I’d cover my upcoming expenses. It became pretty clear that, despite having a great job and a degree from an impressive university, I was broke.I’m one of the millions of Americans who graduated from college with student loan debt. And in my case, after paying on my loans for five years, I still had a six-figure balance and monthly payments equivalent to a second rent! And in conjunction with credit card bills and a car note, I was one missed paycheck away from spiraling out of control.
    I had a decision to make. If I ever wanted to realize my dreams of buying a home, traveling the world, and—most importantly—building wealth for my future family, something had to change. So I pushed past my self-doubt, frustration, and embarrassment, and started attacking my debt, one dollar at a time. And today, I’m more than halfway to a $0 balance. Here are six changes I’ve made along my journey.
    1. I convinced myself it was possible
    Prior to embarking on this journey, I was clueless as to how bad my financial situation really was. I could pay my bills on time, enjoy local restaurants and bars, shop every so often, and still have a few dollars in my account in between paychecks. In my mind, I was doing well!
    In reality, I was barely staying afloat. And it took a few wake up calls—like barely having enough for my bills after an unexpected doctor’s visit and realizing I couldn’t scrape together the deposit for my dream wedding photographer—to get my head out of the clouds. Aside from $200 in a “savings” account that I dipped into every time my checking account went into overdraft, I had nothing to fall back on. And when I finally worked up the nerve to open all my statements and tally up my balances, I could barely breathe. 
    How am I ever going to pay this off?
    After a minor meltdown and a self-loathing session, I had a decision to make. While I had no idea how I would get it done, I knew I’d never be debt-free if I accepted defeat before I gave it a solid effort. I spent time envisioning, in great detail, what my life could look like if I was debt-free, free from monthly payments, and no longer living paycheck to paycheck. It may sound silly, but focusing on the life I can live once I’m financially stable became my biggest motivation. And with Future Me in mind, it became a lot easier to take tangible steps to close the distance between my current situation and the life I want.

    2. I said “no more” adding to my balances
    The most overwhelming aspect of my debt payoff journey was coming to grips with the daunting amount I owed. If I was somehow able to put every penny of my annual salary toward my debt, it would still take nearly two years to pay off. The reality of my circumstances helped me draw a hard line in the sand: if I was going to get myself out of this mess, I had to stop digging the hole I was in. That meant waving goodbye to my credit cards.
    I reluctantly dumped my credit cards out of my wallet (even the ones with the great travel perks) and started leaving the house without them. Going out with only cash and my debit card to rely on scared me and I started checking my balance obsessively, trying desperately to avoid the embarrassment of having a transaction declined.
    But, as uncomfortable and unenjoyable as turning my back on credit cards was, I saw a near-instant change. Getting in the habit of checking my account so often forced me to think about each purchase before and after I made it. I’d gone from using credit as a makeshift emergency fund when I ran out of money to only buying what I could actually afford. Taking credit off the table sparked a level of discipline I didn’t know I was capable of. 

    3.  I reduced my fixed expenses
    As I started looking into ways to save more money and speed up my debt payoff, it became clear that I needed to cut some of my expenses to free up some money. Despite some of the “easy” recommendations for savings, I really hated the idea of never ordering a cup of coffee on my journey to debt freedom. Instead, I looked for ways to keep my small pleasures by lessening my largest expenses—namely my housing.
    At the first opportunity I had, I downsized my apartment and signed a lease that helped me save over $200 each month. When this money freed up, with newly minted discipline on my side, I prepared to put the money toward my debt payments (as opposed to shopping, brunch, and entertainment).

    4. I drafted a realistic budget
    Before I got serious about paying off my debt, I would have incorrectly said that I knew how to budget. In reality, despite the budgeting apps and resources I had on my phone, I was simply tracking my spending. It wasn’t until I decided to start putting “extra” money toward my debt each month that I realized my approach was all wrong. I needed a true budget.
    I started by writing down the dates and expected amounts of my paychecks. Next, I listed every recurring bill or expense I had each month—like my rent, car payment, and student loan payment—and organized them by due date. From there, I bucketed my expenses by paycheck to ensure I’d have the money and my payments wouldn’t be late. Then I layered on the estimated costs of my essentials, like gas and groceries, and any other unavoidable costs I had coming up and split them across my paycheck buckets. With any money that was left, I set aside a portion for non-essentials, like brunches and happy hours, and set committed to using the rest to attack my debt.
    While the idea of budgeting initially stirred feelings of overwhelm, embarrassment, and restriction, I’ve come to see my budget as an organizational tool. Determining where my money will go and how much I’ll spend in certain categories at the start of each month takes the stress and emotion out of my payments and purchases. And I use a budgeting app so my goals and guidelines are always accessible.
    Since I’m the one in charge of drafting my budget each month, I can apply lessons learned and adapt my allocations month to month. I put a little less toward debt to fund holiday gifts, for instance, and more toward debt when I get a gift or bonus.

    5. I decided on a plan of attack
    Once I got organized and identified additional money I could put toward debt pay down each month, I needed to decide what to pay off first. After a bit of research, I decided between two popular debt payroll methods: the avalanche and the snowball. 
    If I used the avalanche method, I’d make additional payments on whichever debt has the highest interest rate. Once my highest interest debt was paid off, I would add whatever I was paying on it to the payments on my account with the next highest interest rate. This strategy would save money, as I’d pay less in interest over the course of my journey. 
    If I used the snowball method, I’d make additional payments on whichever debt had the lowest balance. Once my lowest balance debt was paid off, I would add whatever I was paying on it to the payments on the next lowest debt. This strategy would help me build momentum in my payoff journey, paying off my smallest debts quickly before focusing on my largest balances.
    My debt balances and interest rates really varied and, initially, I wasn’t sure which payoff method made the most sense for my situation. But when I considered how long my journey to debt freedom would be, I knew the snowball method would be my best bet. By focusing on my smallest balances first, I was able to celebrate a few “small wins” early on. When I paid off my first credit card (a $1,200 balance), for instance, I felt incredibly energized around my goal—I could do this! And after a year of following this approach, I paid off five separate accounts and am putting more money than ever toward my payments.

    6. I shared my goals with my girls
    Along this journey, I’ve learned just how tough it is to say “no, I can’t make it” when I actually mean “I’d love to come, but I’m broke!” But I knew that making real progress with my finances would mean scaling back on the (really enjoyable) money traps I set for myself each month. That meant fewer weekend brunches, weeknight happy hours, and aimless trips to Target. And it ultimately meant learning to say “I can’t” when my friends invited me out.
    Initially, I struggled with the embarrassment of being the (seemingly) “broke” one of the group and then the guilt of blowing my friends off. But after a few months of vague excuses and declined invitations, I gradually lowered my guard and let my friends know why they were seeing me less often. And despite my initial hesitation, sharing my goals with my family and friends was one of my best decisions since starting this journey. 
    While a few people couldn’t make sense of my efforts, most of my friends were quick to offer their support and understanding. And in the time since, many of them have stepped up to cheer me on or ask for advice on their own debt-free journeys. Even though I’m on a different personal finance journey than some, I loved that money has become less of a taboo topic in my friend groups. More

  • in

    Clicking ‘Add to Cart’ Whenever You’re Feeling Down? Here’s How to Cut Back on Emotional Spending

    You don’t need us to tell you this, but 2020 was a hard year for most. But so many years can have stressful (or euphoric) ups and downs. Maybe you found out you scored that big promotion or maybe you’re trying to forget about that argument you had with a friend or family member. All of this can result in a lot of retail therapy (whether for yourself or in the form of gifts for loved ones). Luckily, there are things you can do to reduce your stress and cut down on your emotional spending—so close that Amazon Prime window and follow these five tips to help you get through it all unscathed. 
    1. Spare your inbox the sales
    Do you really need to know about that flash sale from Old Navy for the 20th time? Probably not. Do yourself a favor and unsubscribe from the stores you know you’re likely to shop from. If you’re prone to online shopping when you’re stressed out (or bored in quarantine), not getting email alerts for every sale might save you from the impromptu shopping spree. Just because you miss a sale doesn’t mean that you’ll actually miss it—and your wallet won’t either.
    2. Forget your passwords (on purpose, this time)
    Credit card information already stored on your laptop or cell phone? It can be a little too easy to make a purchase with your credit card information literally at your fingertips. By removing the saved information from your computer, it’ll be one more step you have to go through to make that purchase—and who wants to get up to dig through your wallet for your credit card when there are endless movies and TV shows to watch or stream?! (Not to mention those new hobbies you’ve picked up while staying home all year to enjoy.) By creating an extra step, you’ll be less likely to press “buy” on a whim. 
    3. Check your list, twice 
    Sometimes a little time can help you make a better decision, particularly if you’re on an emotional shopping spree. Instead of buying something right when you see it, wait a few days to see if you think it’s actually a good idea or not. If it’s in your budget, it’ll likely still be there a few days later. If it’s not, it will give you time to decide it’s not in the budget, and wait ‘til your next paycheck or set up a savings goal. You’ll thank yourself for thinking it through.
    4. Don’t be afraid to get creative 
    After a year of quarantine, a pandemic, and working from home, it can be easy to justify a few extra purchases for yourself or loved ones, but just because you deserve the world doesn’t mean you need to buy it. If you’re approaching the edge of your budget or spending cap, consider choosing a lower-priced gift, DIY-ing the artwork for your walls, or opting out of plans that include spending a lot of money. Particularly during this year when finances are tight for many, your friends and family will understand if you’re on a tighter budget. 

    5. Close those tabs and step away 
    Shopping can be an easy outlet for stress because it’s something you can control in an instant. But understanding that you’re quick to press “buy” when feeling high or low also means you’re capable of finding another outlet. Consider something else you can do to resist the urge when temptation strikes, like throwing yourself an at-home spa day, reading the next chapter of a book, or testing out the perfect cookie recipe.

    What are some ways you cut back on emotional spending? Let us know in the comments below. More

  • in

    Saving for Your First Home Can Be Overwhelming—Here’s How I’m Doing It

    I’ve always wanted to be a homeowner. I’m not exactly certain when I realized this (so maybe always is an overstatement), but all I know is there’s something so attractive about the idea of having a solid piece of real estate that I can call my own. That’s why, from college graduation on, I’ve made a conscious decision that my big, long-term goal in life is to own a home of my own. You see, beyond just wanting a space that’s truly mine, I most certainly do not want to spend money on an apartment when I can put those same funds toward a mortgage. This is a very personal choice, and one that has largely to do with the fact that I don’t like the idea of paying rent on a property I’ll never own. So, to turn my dream into a reality, I started saving. From the outset, I knew this wouldn’t be the easiest thing in the world. I’m a writer and editor and, while head over heels in love with my job, I’m the first to admit that there are much more profitable careers than my own. Even so, I didn’t let my early days as a struggling freelance writer and collector of odd jobs deter me. I have a vision, and I’m not going to stop hustling until I have the deed—and the keys—to my very own home in my hands.
    To work my way toward my home ownership goal, I keep a few ground rules. I’m a rule-follower by nature, so having a handful of things to do (and not to do) in place has been instrumental to help me stick to my resolve.

    1. Say no to memberships
    The first thing I promised myself when I decided I wanted to become a homeowner was to avoid any and every sort of membership I could. To start, I skipped the gym membership in favor of free fitness classes and programs I found on Pinterest or YouTube. I love switching up my workouts, so I’ll often hop from Pilates on PopSugar Fitness to a HIIT routine I pinned to my “healthy living” board. Sticking with free fitness opportunities has been relatively easy to do and, since I haven’t been to a gym since college, I don’t really miss it. I did invest in hand weights and a yoga mat early on, and I’ve found that those two things are really all I need to get in a good sweat session.
    The second type of membership I turned down is perhaps a harder one to quit, but also one I believe has so many positive effects. You see, I don’t have—and never have had—a streaming service subscription. That means no Netflix, no Hulu, no sort of paid television program whatsoever. Is this a controversial choice? Perhaps. But it also saves me a fair chunk of money that would otherwise go to monthly fees.
    To get around the lack of paid streaming programs, I’ve become BFFs with free services like Crackle, Tubi, and YouTube. They might not have the hottest movies and TV shows all the time (hey, did I say this was a perfect world?), but they do have a solid selection of content. For instance, I got to watch Labyrinth, one of my all-time favorite movies, on Tubi the other day, and it was everything. On top of that, I’m also an avid reader who would rather curl up with a book than stream a movie most days of the week, so I’m always happy to pick up a good read when I’m looking for entertainment.

    2. Live with a parent
    This is a hard one, Everygirls. It’s also something that is completely circumstantial and not for everyone. Personally, I’m lucky enough that my father is willing to let me live in my childhood home until I can find a place of my own. He purchased his own house, the one I live in today, around when he was my current age, so he understands and supports my vision. That being said, it’s a give-and-take arrangement that comes with its own set of sacrifices. Even so, for me, it’s worth it in the long haul.
    Starting with the pros, I’ll say that the cost of living compared to renting an apartment is far less. While I do pay for expenses and “rent,” those costs total less than it would to keep up an apartment. Because of this, I’ve been able to stash away that extra money into a savings account and CD to build up my personal funds more quickly. Plus, my dad and I get along well, and he’s always down to taste-test any recipes I make.
    As for the cons, living at home is not great for my dating life. One of the biggest downsides to living at home is knowing that I will never, ever bring a guy back to my place. My father’s house is small and I’m sleeping in my childhood room, so it’s just not an option. While it wasn’t as much of an issue during those times when I was #singleandlovingit, it’s not the greatest thing in the world now that I’m dating someone. To deal with it, I’ve been upfront with my boyfriend about my dream of owning a house, and he supports it. There’s no perfect way around this, so I think facing the issue head on and rolling with the punches is what keeps me going.

    Source: Aimée Mazzenga for The Everygirl

    3. Set up those income streams
    Like I mentioned above, I’m a writer and editor. I love, love, love what I do, but I also love a good side hustle. It keeps me busy and keeps the extra dollars coming in, so that’s a win-win in my book. To up my savings on the path toward home ownership, I’ve set up multiple side projects that help me bring in additional cash each month. This includes everything from freelancing to selling clothes on Poshmark to scanning receipts on Ibotta. Sometimes I’m not earning a lot from each outlet, but that’s not the point. What matters most is that every extra dollar goes straight into my house fund. And watching that number grow month by month is so, so motivating each time I scour my local Zillow pages.

    4. Save every penny
    When you’re saving for a house, the big picture is a long-term goal. Because of this, staying dedicated to the goal over not just months, but years can be more than a little challenging. From the start, I set up a few savings strategies to keep me going. In terms of how I’m saving, I break it up between a savings account and a certificate of deposit (CD), the latter of which earns me interest more quickly. While COVID-19 did a number on CD interest rates, overall, this option has been a great way to passively earn additional dollars each year.
    As for how I save on a day-to-day basis, it’s all about being mindful. Over the years, I’ve made it a practice to really think about each dollar I want to spend. Will the money go to something meaningful or essential? Is it something materialistic that I don’t actually need? By pausing for reflection prior to each purchase, I’ve been able to curb my spending in a big way. On top of that, I pay for a cheap phone plan, I never order takeout and only eat out occasionally, and I use coupons when I shop for groceries. Plus, a few years ago I made the decision to stop purchasing fast and new fashion. While the decision was primarily an environmentally-driven one, it’s led me to save a ton of money by looking for new-to-me duds at consignment stores, Goodwill, or The Salvation Army instead of paying full price for mass-merchandised apparel.

    Source: Stil Classics

    5. Find free things to do
    There are so many free things to do, you just need to know where to look. 
    When I first started saving for a house, I found finding ways to stay entertained particularly challenging. I didn’t want to stay inside and browse the internet for hours on end, but I also didn’t want to go out and spend all my cash. To remedy this, I started making a list of everything I wanted to do but hadn’t done in my area that was 100-percent free. In no time at all, I had a lengthy notebook page full of everything from hikes to picnics to window shopping in towns I like. And those are just the adventures I planned for outdoors. When the weather is cooler, the homebody in me loves staying indoors to try new recipes, catch up on movies, and get lost in a book or two. Plus, for savers who want to brush up on skills or learn new ones, there are so many (free!) courses available online that cover nearly every topic under the sun. Recently, I watched Canva’s design and marketing courses to help me dive into new layout concepts and improve my social media skills.

    6. Keep yourself motivated
    Last but not least, Everygirls, is the most important step on this list. It’s hard to save. Every day, there are so many temptations (that new restaurant, those trendy shoes, that awesome experience) that make it feel like pure torture to turn a blind eye and drop those hard-earned dollars into your savings account instead. But I’m here to tell you that it’s so worth it. Sometimes you just need a little extra motivation to convince yourself of that truth.
    To stay motivated, the key is to stay mindful. While I’m a huge fan of mindfulness in everyday life, I think this practice rings especially true when it comes to weighing the pros and cons of saving vs. spending. Go beyond just asking yourself “Do I really need this?” and get to the core of the matter with “Does this add value to my life? If so, how?” If the answer isn’t as meaningful or satisfying as it should be, then you probably don’t need to make that purchase.
    On top of that, it’s also important to do everything you can to visualize yourself in your new home. In addition to signing up for all the Zillow alerts, start planning what you can. Organize those Pinterest boards with your interior aesthetics room by room, set a picture of your dream home as your desktop, and write a list of all the little things that make a space feel like home to you. That way, even when the saving gets tough, you’ll never lose sight of the big, house-shaped picture.

    How do you save for large purchases? Let us know below. More

  • in

    How My Husband and I Reconciled Our Spending Differences

    One of the first things my husband and I bonded over when we met was that as children we both had a peculiar habit. While playing video games, we both refused to spend any of the “money” we earned while playing. Even if the video game currency was there to help win the game or unlock special features, we held onto our virtual cash. We were fun children.We met very young, and for many years, our spending habits were in sync. As cash-strapped college students, we worked hard and we saved our money for a rainy day. We never knew when we would need money to help pay for school, cars, or living expenses, so we didn’t spend any of it. Our idea of a wild Friday night was a Blockbuster movie on the couch. (That gives you an idea of how long ago we met.) Why the movie love? We could afford to go out to dinner, but we were more comfortable not spending the money. We had a financial routine and it worked well. But when you least expect it, life throws you a curveball.

    When the friction started
    For over five years, we were in perfect financial harmony. But a funny thing happened: we grew up. And we grew in different, albeit both good, directions. He started graduate school and I jumped right into the working world. His grad school stipend paid his bills and left a little money to add to savings every month. I wasn’t bringing in the big bucks, but my entry-level salary felt hefty compared to what I was making babysitting in college. Within a few months, I began freelance writing on the side and had even more cashflow coming in.
    I was working 60 hour weeks and I was ready to treat myself. The occasional happy hour here, a new blouse there. As my income rose, so did my spending habits. I was never spending more than I could afford to and I was saving money every month. But I can see how from my husband’s perspective it felt like my spending habits were changing drastically.
    To this day, I consider myself to be thrifty. I only buy clothing on sale (and rarely at that). I don’t spend money on entertainment like Netflix or concerts, and I skip pricey beauty treatments like manicures or highlights. But I’m not as thrifty as my husband, which caused some frustrations as we adjusted to our new financial reality. 

    How we make it work

    We still had the same financial goals and saw eye-to-eye on many areas of our financial life. But we knew there were some kinks to iron out if we wanted to live harmoniously.

    Finding common ground
    One of our biggest recurring money fights revolved around the fact that after college I wanted to travel. I didn’t travel at all during school and worked every spring break, summer, and winter holiday. Because I was making extra money freelancing, it felt like it was my moment to hit the road. Unfortunately, my husband didn’t feel the same way. He was doing his best to get through grad school in one piece, and on a modest stipend. There came a point where we decided that it would be best if I traveled without him (this was before we married). Well long story short, that plan lasted one trip before an opportunity for us to travel together arose. An opportunity that was too good to pass up. And guess who learned he loved to travel, and that it was worth every penny? Yep, you guessed right.
    Now that we both know for certain we are passionate about traveling, we never disagree about spending money on a dream trip. We learned from this conflict, that before rejecting any experiences because of the cost, we should be open to trying them first.

    Respecting our differences
    My frugal husband sure comes in handy sometimes. (Hello, hefty savings account and emergency fund.) But I get frustrated when he is too slow to make a necessary purchase because he’s debating the cost. Even if he knows he is going to buy that new pack of phone chargers, he’ll wait a week or two to wrap his head around the purchase. I don’t hesitate before buying a true necessity. It’s not like I want to spend my hard-earned money on a water filtration pitcher, but what can you do? Now, even if I am itching to cross a purchase off my to-do list, I patiently wait until he is comfortable spending the money. That doesn’t mean I’m not annoyed by this habit at times. But the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t harm anyone and it makes him feel more comfortable.

    Something that makes both of us more comfortable with each other’s financial decisions is planning together. We discuss everything in detail, with no topic off limits. We debate how career choices may affect our finances down the road, think carefully about retirement planning, and we have financial plans for what we will do in an emergency. Keeping each other informed of the financial moves we’re making, whether we approve of the decision or not, means neither of us feel like we’re left in the dark or purposely misled. No secrets and no guilt for us, thank you very much!

    Have you ever reconciled financial differences in a romantic relationship? More

  • in

    9 Sneaky Ways to Save Money During the Week

    Does anyone else think saving money is kind of addicting? Don’t get me wrong—I spend it too. Much as I wish it was otherwise, I find my hard-earned dough has the unnerving ability to disappear in the blink of an eye, usually when the travel bug hits. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good adventure.On the flip side, or perhaps because of my penchant for getaways, I’ve become just a little obsessed with finding new ways to save money. Some moves are obvious: budgets, CDs with high-yield interest rates, and what not. Others, however, I like to think of as sneaky money moves (s/o to my girl Cardi B). Before you ask, no, I’m not hoarding money under any tables like I did during Monopoly games as a kid. Instead, I’m doing my research and figuring out under-the-radar techniques to pinch pennies wherever I can. While these steps might not amount to huge savings, they do lessen living costs and, little by little, build up bank accounts. Every cent counts in the long haul, right?

    1. Save pennies at the pump
    I’m not exaggerating when I say pennies here. Depending on the day, sometimes all I get are pennies back on my gas purchase. Other times, however, I can earn more than a dollar back at the pump. The secret? It’s all thanks to Checkout 51. If you’re not using the coupon app yet, I highly recommend downloading it. While the app is great for grocery shopping (I’ll get to that in a second), it’s also a sneaky tool for lowering your gas receipts.
    So what’s the catch? Checkout 51 cashback discounts aren’t available at every gas station. For instance, the pump closest to where I live doesn’t participate. The one on my way to work, however, does. Because of this, I’ve taken to planning my fill-ups to coincide with my drive to the office. Before I leave home, I upload the offer to my account (a required step), then fill’er up at the gas station. Later that day, I snap a picture of my receipt for the app, then wait for my cashback savings to apply to my account. Ba da bing! Money back for me.

    2. Become a coupon queen
    No, you don’t have to go all Extreme Couponing to save big at the grocery store. All it really takes are a few easy-to-use apps to score deals on the groceries you buy anyway. First things first, take a minute to see if the grocery store near you has its own app. For example, I usually go to Stop & Shop, so I always use the store’s app to load discounts to my card (related: get a supermarket card!) and show the cashier my account barcode right on my phone. Through the Stop & Shop app, I also receive personalized coupons based on my frequent purchases (I get a lot of yogurt deals) and keep track of how many gas points I have for the Stop & Shop gas program (again, get a supermarket card!).
    Beyond the basic supermarket app, other favorites include Checkout 51 and Fetch Rewards. While all are similar, they each have unique pros that make having them all worthwhile. With Checkout 51, the coupon selection isn’t huge, but it can pay off well. Chobani yogurt is a recurring deal on the app, so I make the most of it whenever I can. Depending on the day, I can get a dollar or two back just from buying yogurt. As for Fetch Rewards, it’s all about points. Instead of loading specific deals, all you need to do is scan your receipt and let the app do the rest.

    3. Drop the gym membership
    Towards the end of college, one of the first things I vowed to myself was that I’d never pay for a gym membership. Now, I’m not in any way saying gyms are bad or a waste of time, because they’re not. What they are, however, is expensive. Based on my lifestyle, I knew that I never actually needed to pay for a membership when I could easily take advantage of free resources instead. And I did.
    When I worked abroad for a year after graduation, I relied exclusively upon running and Youtube fitness videos to stay in shape. I still do, although I’ve also added Shape’s fitness challenges to the mix. Is running not in the cards for you? Nowadays, Youtube has every type of workout under the sun, including my favorites by Fitness Blender and POPSUGAR. Not only do both channels offer routines with and without equipment, but they’re approachable for individuals of all fitness levels. And yes, I can say first-hand that they definitely do make you sweat.

    4. Cook one new recipe per week
    You might be reading this one and saying to yourself, “Um, I already cook at home.” Nice! Sweet! You go, Everygirl! But when’s the last time you cooked something new? On the flip side, when’s the last time you ate out or ordered takeout? If the answer to the latter is anything along the lines of “way too often,” then it’s time to get cooking. 
    I know you probably know that cooking at home is less expensive than eating out all the time. The sneaky part of this tip is that it’s not just about saving a few bucks by skipping Seamless, but also about creating a gradual lifestyle change. See, when you get in the habit of picking out a new recipe every week or two, you win twice. On the one hand, you get to try a new-to-you dish and improve your skills in the kitchen. On the other, you commit to regularly forgoing dinner out in order to save money and work your creative muscles. And who knows? You just may love it.

    5. Make coffee at home
    This one’s for you, Starbucks lovers (also, I’m sorry, but you’ll thank me later). Depending on where you live, a standard cup of drip coffee can run anywhere from an affordable $1.50 to a cringeworthy $5 and above. I don’t know about you, but $3 a day—and $15 per workweek—is a gut punch to my wallet. To avoid the temptation of stopping into any of the two Starbucks or four Dunkins on my way to work (yes, I counted), I’ve made a commitment to only brew coffee at home. I can’t operate without java in the morning, so this is actually instant gratification for me, since it means I don’t have to suffer through getting ready sans-caffeine. Three scoops and eight minutes after hitting the start button, I’m happily sipping on my preferred medium roast, hazelnut blend. 
    Want to make coffee at home even easier? With auto-timers, you can set your coffee to brew at a certain hour every day. In the warmer months, you could also brew a huge pot on Sunday and turn it into iced coffee to sip during the week. 

    6. Get a library card—and actually use it
    Unlike platinum highlights and Tamagotchis, library cards are one childhood memento you want to keep with you into adulthood. In case it’s been a minute since you last stepped foot into your local library, consider the fact that library cards grant access to so much more than books. Depending on the library closest to you, signing up for a member card might mean just getting access to hundreds, if not thousands, of new-to-you reads (which sounds pretty wonderful, tbh). On the other hand, it might also mean gaining admittance to everything from career prep programs and language courses to movies and music. And did I mention it’s all free?
    P.S. Your local library isn’t the only place to sign up for a card. For college alums, many universities offer library access to books and databases for graduates and students alike. Check with your school’s alumni services to confirm.

    7. Carpool with friends or take public transportation at least one day a week
    Depending on where you live or what your work setup is like, commuting solo might be the path of least resistance. If you want to get serious about saving, though, carpooling and public transportation are the way to go. Make either option more doable by introducing one or the other to your routine on a set day per week. Perhaps you know your cubicle buddy lives in the next town over from you and drives by your place on the way to work. Why not ask him or her to alternate driving duty with you every Friday? Not only will carpooling save you gas money in the short-term, but it can also extend the life of your ride and decrease pollution.
    If carpooling is not feasible or realistic (in other words, if you live in a big city), public transportation is a saving grace. Instead of relying upon your own car or an Uber to get you to the office, consider taking the local bus or subway to work instead. For the price of a single ride, you may have to sacrifice a few minutes of your morning routine, but you’ll score big on gas or Lyft fee savings. Plus, public transportation is an easy way to make your daily commute just a teensy bit greener.

    8. Shop for makeup at the drugstore
    As much as it pains me to say it, sometimes skipping that Sephora order is a good idea. If you think about it, many “must-have” makeup items aren’t really essential at all. Case in point: mascara. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been suckered into purchasing a prestige mascara just because I was a fan of the brand (looking at you, Lancome Hypônse Drama) or I fell for the packaging. Yet when it came down to testing each tube, I found I loved them about as much as I loved the versions from the drugstore. 
    All in all, for frequent repurchases like mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick, it’s much more affordable to pick them up at the drugstore instead. With cheaper prices and membership discounts, drugstores offer all the go-to products for a fraction of the prices found at department store counters. And if we’re being honest, we all know the CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara is never not a good thing to have in your makeup stash.

    9. Look at leftovers like gold (because they are)
    If you’re trying to save dough and you’re not all aboard the leftover bandwagon, it’s time to hop on and never look back. You see, leftovers are, if not a full meal in and of themselves, the start of something delicious. To make leftovers work for me, I love purposefully making extra of whatever I’m cooking for dinner so that I can pack it up in my container of choice for lunch the next day. While this is a major boon when it comes to lunch prep in the morning (simply grab the container and go), it’s also a sneaky way for me to curb my takeout expenses. If I know I already have a perfectly scrumptious portion of food waiting for me in the office fridge, I’m far less likely to place a pickup order than I would be if I threw together a sad desk lunch that morning. (Let me tell you, a can of microwaveable soup gets old real fast.)

    What everyday savings techniques do you practice? More

  • in

    5 Changes to Make to Your Finances Before Winter

    As the weather changes, naturally, so will your budget. The seasons can have an impact on your finances, whether it’s setting aside a little more money for brunch season with your friends in the summer or opening up a whole new savings account for holiday gift-giving in the winter. Preparing for the colder months is more than just about breaking out your old coats and sweaters; your finances also need prepping to plan for the change to your spending, especially if you are rebuilding financially from a tough year. Here are a few ways you can change up your budget to ring in the winter season wisely, without spending your last dollar. 

    1. Reevaluate your budget 
    The spending categories in your budget, which can include household bills, dining out, fixed expenses, and more, can—and most likely will—change and shift with the seasons. From your utilities increasing from being in the house more to preparing for holiday travel, make sure to reevaluate your budget to accommodate the change to your lifestyle this winter. 
    Whether you update your budget on a weekly, monthly, or a paycheck-by-paycheck basis, take time to make any modifications to your spending categories to be prepared for winter spending. Use your favorite budgeting software to update your spending in advance of the winter season. Your extra dollars may need to go toward your shopping budget for gift giving, or toward an increase in household items. Keep your budget flexible to accommodate your winter spending habits.

    2. Save in advance for the holidays 
    As soon as the weather breaks, the holidays are looming right around the corner, which means the season of gift-giving is near. Don’t let your wallet take a hit this winter while trying to gift shop for the holidays; prepare in advance and set aside savings specifically for the holidays. 
    Prepping for the holiday season can be daunting, especially if your budget isn’t prepared for it. Evaluate your finances to see how you can allocate more funds for gifts, holiday travel, decorations, and other celebratory plans. Make a plan to attack the holiday buying season by making a checklist of everyone you plan to shop for, how much you plan to allocate to their gift, and where in your budget your spending is coming from. Put yourself on a timeline for when your spending begins and ends for gift giving this winter, as it is easy to overspend on family and friends for the holidays. 
    Traveling for the holidays to spend time with friends and family can also make a dent in your finances. Budget for travel in advance by taking advantage of any travel deals available and saving up for any expenses associated with your travels, including gas, rentals, hotel stays, and airfare costs. 
    The holidays during the winter are very festive, and decorating your home to match the joy of the season can be costly. Look to use recycled decorations for the holidays instead of purchasing new items, or look for cheaper alternatives at your favorite stores to get your home holiday-ready.

    Source: colorjoy stock

    3. Change up your spending habits 
    Being in your home more during winter will most likely tempt you to order online more, versus dining out and going shopping in your favorite stores. Shift your budget to accommodate how your spending habits will change this winter season. 
    Your budget this winter might include more money allocated toward getting your basic household and beauty items delivered, versus going into the stores to save time and to protect your health ahead of the flu season. Dining out usually slows during the winter, especially now as we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so be prepared to make room in your budget for the change in your dining out habits. You may want to shift money around to accommodate spending more on groceries instead of going out when the temperature drops.
    Shopping and maintaining your winter attire will also require a few extra dollars in your budget. Prepare to spend a little more money on clothing items if you live in a colder climate. Winter clothing is usually a little more costly to buy while in season, so before the cold hits, shop around to prepare for what you might need, like coats, gloves, scarves, and boots. Anticipating what your spending habits may look like as winter approaches will help you shift your budget around proactively for a more realistic look at how winter might change your finances and your lifestyle.  

    4. Plan for an increase in household expenses 
    During the colder months, you’re in the home more than usual, which usually includes using more heat, electricity, and household appliances. Don’t let your utility bills shock you this coming winter season; prepare for an increase in household expenses before it’s time to hibernate during the colder months. 
    The colder the season, the more heat you and your family are likely to use to stay warm inside. Set aside more for household expenses and adjust your budget to make way for higher utility bills and any other expenses related to maintaining your home throughout the winter. Check in with your utility providers to see if they have cost-efficient ways you can save money on your utility bills in the winter, as many have peak savings days they recommend or tips on how you can use less energy throughout the season to lower your bill.
    You may want to make room in your budget for weather-related home maintenance as well, like snow removal or sealing your doors and windows to keep in the heat. Damages to many homes due to winter weather can break your savings, especially if you’re not properly prepared. Make sure you set aside more money in your home budget to make way for any unexpected home expenses the winter might inflict on your home.

    5. Prepare in advance for tax season 
    Time waits for no one, and neither does tax season! If you’re already sweating at the thought of filing taxes next year and feel unprepared, you are not alone. Get ready for tax season this winter by taking a closer look at your finances before the beginning of the new year. 
    Gather up all of your tax documents and receipts from the year so that you don’t miss a beat next year during tax season. This could include any itemizable expenses from working from home, unemployment benefits due to being laid off or furloughed, or relocation expenses that may be reimbursed. 
    Take this winter season to research and find a tax professional or trusted tax software you can use before the end of the year in order to plan your filings early. Get an early look at what your tax liabilities may look like next year, and get ahead of the game!  More

  • in

    5 Money Moves to Make When Transitioning Careers

    Changing careers can be a super exciting time, with new role, new colleagues, maybe even a new wardrobe! But with all this excitement, it can be easy to forget about the financial considerations you’ll want to make along the way. To keep your finances climbing alongside that career ladder, below are five money moves you’ll need when making the switch. 
    1. Negotiate your offer
    Just because you’ve been looking for a change, doesn’t mean you should accept your first offer. A 2019 Jobvite study found that 83 percent of those that asked for a raise or increased salary received it. Yet, only 33 percent negotiated for their current position. Don’t be afraid to play those odds!
    Want some tips to negotiate like a boss? To increase your chances of getting a “yes,” make sure to do your research and come prepared. Look to websites like to compare the salaries of similar positions, outline your achievements from previous roles, and practice your pitch before going to HR. If you’ve received multiple offers, use them as leverage. This may also be an indicator of which company is willing to invest in you more as an employee over time.
    While you’re in the negotiating mindset, you may also ask whether your employer is willing to help cover some or all of your moving expenses. Depending on how far you’re relocating, this can get pricey quick. Luckily, many employers are prepared to help (but only if you’re willing to ask).

    2. Consider the full package
    If you’re transitioning careers, chances are you’re looking for something new and exciting. Whether it’s the ideal role or starting a business of your own, you’re probably eager to make the switch! But before you accept what may seem like your dream job, make sure to consider the benefits, too. 
    As more companies work to recruit a younger workforce, there may be some new perks available to you that your old employer didn’t offer. Benefits can play a huge role in improving your mental and financial health over time, so make sure to consider their value before deciding your next move. Some of the most sought-after benefits for millennials right now include student loan repayment assistance, pet insurance, and flexible work schedules. You may also be willing to take a pay cut for more paid time off or an increased employer match, for example. 
    Jealous of those unlimited vacation plans? Make a list of the type of benefits that are most important to you, and keep them in mind during your search and negotiations.  

    3. Don’t cash out your old 401(k)
    There are several options you can take when deciding what to do with your old 401(k), but whatever you do, don’t cash it out. Retirement accounts like a 401(k) or 403(b) give you more bang for your buck than a standard investment account by reducing the amount you pay in taxes. If it’s a traditional 401(k) or 403(b), you contribute with pre-tax income, leaving more money in that account to grow. If your employer offers a Roth 401(k), you’ll contribute with post-tax money now, but won’t pay taxes on those contributions or earnings (!) when withdrawing after age 59.5.
    So while cashing out your 401(k) might be tempting, try not to do it. Either keep your 401(k) where it is or roll it over to another tax-advantaged account, such as your new employer’s plan or an individual retirement account (IRA). 

    4. Update your budget and financial plan
    Switching careers often means a change in income, and hopefully a good one! This makes it the perfect time to revisit your budget. Consider how your take-home pay, retirement contributions, and commuting costs may change. Will your cost of living go up or down? If you’re taking a pay cut, you may want to test out your budget in advance of the new job or move to make sure you’ll be comfortable when things get real. 
    Longer-term, you’ll want to think about how your new income will impact your financial goals. Can you reach a savings goal more quickly? Will it help you save for a down payment on your first home? Are there stock options or maybe a pension to consider? 
    Lastly, if your income is flying high, try to resist lifestyle inflation, where you end up spending more just because you can. Consider what you can save or invest in to make your money work harder for you. “More money, more problems,” isn’t really a thing. Having more income is all about options, so choose yours based on your goals and lifestyle. 

    5. Starting your own business? Whip the planner out (and the Excel sheets) 
    If starting your own business or going freelance, you’ll want to create a separate budget and financial plan to account for any investments in the business, income, and expenses. Often, this will be tied to a separate bank account. You should estimate your tax payments and build up a business emergency fund to help prepare for the unexpected. If you’re self-funding your business, you’ll also want to account for this as a line item in your personal budget as well. How much do you plan to invest in your business each month, or over the year? Thinking ahead will help ensure your finances and cash flows stay in CEO-level shape. 
    Being your own boss has a lot of perks, including making your own schedule and vision for your company. The downside is that the safety nets you’ll want to build your empire require some thought (and a good chunk of change). Will you go with a Roth or SEP IRA to save for retirement? What insurances do you need, including health, disability, and liability insurance to protect yourself and your assets? What may seem like an extra or unnecessary expense now is something that could save you thousands in the long run as your own CEO. 
    By taking the time to think ahead when it comes to your finances, you’ll be that much more prepared to knock your new role out of the park. While it may take a little planning, reducing financial stress in your life will keep you focused on the task at hand, so you and your finances can level all the way up.  More