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The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a new appreciation of backyards and other outdoor spaces. With many of us spending hours and hours at home, we’re all looking for places to relax other than the living room sofa and kitchen. If you have a yard with ample space for you and your family, consider yourself blessed.
But in 2021, outdoor space owners might want to consider taking it up a notch with one of the most sought-after features: an outdoor kitchen.
âI looked at this as an investment our family would enjoy for the next 20-plus years,â says lifestyle expert Evette Rios, who recently embarked on her own outdoor kitchen project.
For people who dream of spending even more time cooking outside and enjoying their backyard, an outdoor kitchen is a must. And now’s the time to get to work to ensure your kitchen is ready when the warm, sunny days arrive.
Take a look at the tips below from experts who have successfully completed outdoor kitchen projects of their own.
1. Set a budget
Outdoor kitchens are not a cheap investment, but the price range is really broad. The cost of an outdoor kitchen ranges from $5,406 to $21,699, according to HomeAdvisor.com. Therefore, there are many ways to tailor your kitchen to your budget.
That being said, you should always prioritize durable materials in an outdoor kitchen.
âInterior furnishings afford a bit more leeway on where you splurge and save,â says HGTV starÂ Laurie March. âBut for outdoor kitchens and living spaces, performance and durabilityâwhen it comes to cabinetry and appliancesâwill always be worth it.â
2. Seek out American-made products
Photo by Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens
March says COVID-19 has caused major global supply chain interruptions, which has made acquiring building materials and appliances difficult. But sourcing for your outdoor kitchen might be easier if you opt for American-made products.
âI selected Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, which are manufactured in Connecticut. It made the process so much easier,â says March.
She says it wasnât only about convenience, but also craftsmanship, quality, and the company’s established history.
3. Order appliances early in the planning process
Appliances are what will make your outdoor kitchen shine. But youâll want to order them sooner rather than later because some companies have long lead times or backordered items.
March advises finalizing appliance picks first and ordering as quickly as possible.
âItâs easier to store them until youâre ready to install rather than have to wait for them to arrive, which can add substantial time to your project,â she says.
4. Design with four seasons in mind
Photo by Chicago Green Design Inc.
Rios highly recommends designing your outdoor kitchen for year-round enjoyment. For example, in her outdoor kitchen, she knew she wanted durable, high-quality cabinets to keep contents dry even in rain or high humidity.
âHeating elements in different zones of the outdoor space are also crucial,â says Rios. âIn the kitchen, our pizza oven helps keep us warm during food prep, and the fire pit is a cozy spot for guests to gather.â
If you have a covered outdoor space, she recommends planning and budgeting for ceiling-mounted heat lamps, or invest in one or two free-standing, mobile heating units.
5. Find the right people for the job
March says homeowners should do their homework and hire the right professionals to guide them through their vision, flag any potential pitfalls, and elevate the overall aesthetic.
âFor me, bringing a landscape designer onboard brought the whole vision for our outdoor kitchen and yard together,â says March.
Rios says itâs also important to lock in a trusted contractor and installer to ensure the vision and layout for your outdoor kitchen is doable and within your budget.
6. Have fun with color
Photo by DeGoey Designs
Rios says an outdoor kitchen is the perfect space to have fun with color, whether taking cues from the surrounding landscape or going bright and bold.
âBlues and greens can so easily play off of surrounding elements outdoors. Iâm over the all-white kitchen, and I think outdoor kitchens are the perfect opportunity to embrace brighter hues,” says Rios, who used a beautiful juniper-green, powder-coat finish on her outdoor kitchen cabinetry.
7. Design based on how youâll use your space
âAsking yourself the right questions as you think through design options can provide a lot of helpful guidance,â says March. âHow do you want to live outdoors? Whatâs not working with your current or past space, and how could it rise up to meet you a bit better?â
She says itâs also important to consider whoâs going to use the outdoor kitchen space. Does it need to be wheelchair-accessible or suitable for pets and kids?
âThese details will dictate so much of your design,â says March.
For her space, she envisioned how it could pivot from a space to cook to a space to entertain. The big, open shelf she installed, for example, serves as additional landing space for items she brings out from the indoor kitchen.
The post How to Dine Al Fresco Year-Round: 7 Outdoor Kitchen Design Tips for 2021 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
It seems pretty normal to me now but people still drop their jaws when I tell them weâve paid over $45K on our loans in less than a year. We still have a year to go and most days I…
The post How We Paid Off Over $45K of Debt in 11 Months appeared first on Modern Frugality.
You’ve tried debt payoff strategies, balance transfers, consolidation, and evenÂ debt management; you’ve begged your creditors, liquidated your assets, and pestered your friends and families for any money they can afford, but after all of that, you still have more debt than you can handle.
Once you reach the end of your rope, the options that remain are not as forgiving asÂ debt managementÂ and they’ll do much more damage to yourÂ credit scoreÂ than debt payoff strategies. However, if you’ve tried other forms ofÂ debt reliefÂ and nothing seems to work, all that remains is to consider debt settlement and bankruptcy.
Debt settlement is a very good way to clear your debt. It’s one of the cheapest and most complete ways to eradicateÂ credit cardÂ debtÂ and can help with most other forms ofÂ unsecured debtÂ as well. Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is aÂ last resortÂ option for debtors who can’t meet thoseÂ monthly paymentsÂ and have exhausted all other possibilities.
But which option is right for you, should you be looking for aÂ debt settlement companyÂ or aÂ bankruptcy attorney?
Similarities Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement
Firstly, let’s look at the similarities between bankruptcy and debt settlement, which are actually few and far between. In fact, beyond the fact that they are bothÂ debt reliefÂ options that can clear your debt, there are very few similarities, with the main one being that they both impact yourÂ credit scoreÂ quite heavily.
A bankruptcy can stay on yourÂ credit reportÂ for up to 10 years and do a lot of damage when it is applied. It may take several years before you can successfully apply for loans and high credit lines again, and it will continue to impact your score for years to come.
Debt settlement is not quite as destructive, but it can reduce yourÂ credit scoreÂ in a similar way and last for up to 7 years. Accounts do not disappear in the same way as when you pay them in full, so future creditors will know that the accounts were settled for less than the balance and this may scare them away.
In both cases, you could lose a couple hundred points off yourÂ credit score, but it all depends on how high your score is to begin with, as well as how many accounts you have on yourÂ credit reportÂ and how extensive the settlement/bankruptcy process is.
Differences Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement
The main two types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The former liquidates assets and uses the funds generated from this liquidation to pay creditors. The latter creates aÂ repayment planÂ with a goal of repaying all debts within a fixed period of time using an installment plan that suits the filer.
Debt settlement, on the other hand, is more of a personal process, the goal of which is to offer a reduced settlement sum to creditors andÂ debt collectors, clearing the debts with aÂ lump sum paymentÂ that is significantly less than the balance.
Chapter 7 BankruptcyÂ andÂ Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
When people think of bankruptcy, it’s often a Chapter 7 that they have in mind. With aÂ Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all non-exempt assets will be sold, and the money then used to pay lenders. There are filing costs and it’s advised that you hire aÂ bankruptcy attorneyÂ to ensure the process runs smoothly.
Chapter 7 bankruptcyÂ is quick and complete, typically finishing in 6 months and clearing mostÂ unsecured debtsÂ in this time. There is noÂ repayment planÂ to follow and no lawsuits or wage garnishment to worry about.
Chapter 13, on the other hand, focuses on aÂ repayment planÂ that typically spans up to 5 years. The debts are not wiped clear but are instead restructured in a way that the debtor can handle. This method of bankruptcy is typically more expensive, but only worthwhile for debtors who can afford to repay their debts.
Filing for bankruptcy is not easy and there is no guarantee you will be successful. There are strictÂ bankruptcy lawsÂ to follow and theÂ bankruptcy courtÂ must determine that you have exhausted all other options and have no choice but to file.
Bankruptcy will require you to see aÂ credit counselor, which helps to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes in the future. This can feel like a pointless and demeaning requirement, as many debtors understand the rights and wrongs and got into a mess because of uncontrollable circumstances and not reckless spending, but sessions are short, cheap, and shouldn’t cause much stress.
HowÂ Debt Settlement Works
The goal of debt settlement is to get creditors to agree to aÂ settlement offer. This can be performed by the debtor directly, but it’s often done with help from aÂ debt settlement company.
The debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your debts every month. This has two big benefits:
1. More Money
You will have more money in your account every month, which means you’ll have more funds to go towards debtÂ settlement offers.Â
The idea of making largeÂ lump sum paymentsÂ can seem alien to someone who has a lot of debt. After all, if you’re struggling to make $400 debt payments every month on over $20,000 worth of debt, how can you ever hope to get the $5,000 to $15,000 you need to clear those debts in full?
But if you stop making all payments and instead move that money to a secured account, you’ll have $4,800 extra at the end of the year, which should be enough to start making those offers and getting those debts cleared.
2. Creditor Panic
Another aspect of the debt settlement process that confuses debtors is the idea that creditors would be willing to accept reduced offers. If you have a debt worth $20,000 and are paying large amounts of interest every month, why would they accept a lump sum and potentially take a loss overall?
The truth is, if you keep makingÂ monthly payments, creditors will be reluctant to accept aÂ settled debtÂ offer. But as soon as you start missing those payments, the risk increases, and the creditor faces the very real possibility that they will need to sell that debt to aÂ collection agency. If you have a debt of $20,000, it may be sold for as little as $20 to $200, so if you come in with an offer of $10,000 before it reaches that point, they’ll snap your hand off!
Types of Debt
AÂ debt settlement programÂ works best when dealing withÂ credit cardÂ debt, but it can also help to clear loan debt,Â medical bills, and more. Providing it’s not government debt or secured debt, it will work.Â
With government debt, you need specific tax relief services, and, in most cases, there is no way to avoid it. With secured debt, the lender will simply take your asset as soon as you default.
Debt settlement companiesÂ may place some demanding restrictions on you, and in the short term, this will increase yourÂ total debtÂ and worsen yourÂ financial situation. In addition to requesting that you stop makingÂ monthly payments, they may ask that you place yourself on a budget, stop spending money on luxuries, stop acquiring new debt, and start putting every penny you have towards the settlement.
It can have aÂ negative impactÂ on your life, but the end goal is usually worth it, as you’ll beÂ debt-freeÂ within 5 years.
Pros andÂ Cons of Debt SettlementÂ and Bankruptcy
Neither of these processes are free or easy. With bankruptcy, you may pay up to $2,000 for Chapter 7 and $4,000 for Chapter 13 (including filing fees and legal fees) while debt settlement is charged as a fixed percentage of the debt or the money saved.Â
As mentioned already, both methods can also damage yourÂ credit score. But ultimately, they will clear your debts and the responsibilities that go with them. If you’ve been losing sleep because of your debt, this can feel like a godsendâa massive weight lifted off your shoulders.
It’s also worth noting thatÂ scamsÂ exist for both options, so whether you’reÂ filing bankruptcyÂ or choosing a debtÂ settlement plan, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company/lawyer and are not being asked to pay unreasonable upfront fees. ReputableÂ debt settlement companiesÂ will provide you with aÂ free consultationÂ in the first instance, and you can use the NACBA directory to find a suitable lawyer.
Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement: The End Goal
For all the ways that these two options differ, there is one important similarity: They give you a chance to make aÂ fresh start. You can never underestimate the benefits of this, even if it comes with a reducedÂ credit scoreÂ and a derogatory mark that will remain on yourÂ credit reportÂ for years to come.
If you’re heavily in debt, it can feel like your money isn’t your own, your life isn’t secure, and your future is not certain. With bankruptcy and debt settlement, yourÂ credit scoreÂ and finances may suffer temporarily, but it gives you a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again.
What’s more, this process may take several years to complete and in the case of bankruptcy, it comes withÂ credit counseling. Once you make it through all of this, you’ll be more knowledgeable about debt, you’ll have a better grip on your finances, and your impulse control.Â
And even if you don’t, you’ll be forced to adopt a little restraint after the process ends as yourÂ credit scoreÂ will be too low for you to apply for newÂ personalÂ loansÂ and high limitÂ cards.
Other Options for Last DitchÂ Debt Relief
Many debtors preparing for debt settlement or bankruptcy may actually have more options than they think. For instance, bankruptcy is often seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card, an easy escape that you can use to your advantage whenever you have debts you don’t want to pay.
But that’s simply not the case and unless you have tried all other options and can prove that none of them have worked, your case may be thrown out. If that happens, you’ll waste money on legal and filing fees and will be sent back to the drawing board.
So, regardless of theÂ amount of debtÂ you have, make sure you’ve looked into the followingÂ debt reliefÂ options before you focus on debt settlement or bankruptcy.Â
AÂ debt consolidationÂ loanÂ is provided by a specialized lender. They pay off all your existing debts and give you a single large loan in return, one that has a lowerÂ interest rateÂ and a lowerÂ monthly payment.Â
Your debt-to-income ratio will improve, and you’ll have more money in your pocket at the end of the month. However, in exchange, you’ll be given a much longer-term, which means you’ll pay more interest over the life of the loan.
AÂ Debt ManagementÂ Plan
Debt managementÂ combinesÂ counseling servicesÂ withÂ debt consolidation. AÂ debt managementÂ planÂ requires you to continue making yourÂ monthly payment, only this will go to theÂ debt managementÂ company and not directly to the creditors. They will then distribute the money to your creditors.
You’ll be given aÂ monthly paymentÂ that you can manage, along with the budgeting advice you need to keep meeting those payments. In exchange, however, you’ll be asked to close all but oneÂ credit cardÂ (which can hurt yourÂ credit score) and if you miss a payment then your creditors may back out of the agreement.
Balance Transfer Card
If all your debts are tied intoÂ credit cards, you can use a balance transferÂ credit cardÂ to make everything more manageable. With a balance transferÂ credit card, you move one or more debts onto a new card, one that offers a 0% APR for a fixed period.Â
The idea is that you continue making yourÂ monthly payment, only because there is no interest, all the money goes towards the principal.
Home Equity Loans
If you have built substantial equity in your home then you can look into home equity loans and lines of credit. These are secured loans, which means there is a risk ofÂ repossessionÂ if you fail to keep up your payments, but for this, you’ll get a greatly reducedÂ interest rateÂ and a sum large enough to clear your debts.
Bottom Line: The Best Option
Debt settlement and bankruptcy are both considered to beÂ last resortÂ debt-reliefÂ options, but they couldn’t be more different from one another. Generally speaking, we would always recommend debt settlement first, especially if you have a lot of money tied up inÂ credit cardÂ debt.
If not, and you can’t bear the idea of spending several months ignoring your creditors, missing payments, and accumulatingÂ late fees, it might be time to consider bankruptcy. In any case, make sure you exhaust all other possibilities first.
Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
The post The Ultimate Guide to Using a Cash Budget appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
There are many types of budgets you can try.Â A quick Google search will show you lots of options – including the cash envelope budget.Â If you say it will not work for you, it means you did not try doing it the right way.
Whether you are getting out of debt or not, you can probably use some help in making sure you control your spending. Contrary to what many people say, the best way to do this is to use cash. Â If you are trying to get out of debt, this is the next step you need to follow!Â The cash envelope system is an important step to your debt paydown plan.
Ask many financial experts such as Dave Ramsey or Clark Howard and they will agree that using cash is an important factor in controlling your spending. And it is not a system only for people trying to get out of debt, but everyone as it really makes you think more about your spending.
HOW TO USE THE CASH BUDGET
WHY A CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM?
Cash is King!!Â I say this all of the time because I genuinely believe this. Â When I bring up using cash, the first rebuttal I get is “If I have cash, I spend it far too easily.”Â Sorry, I don’t buy it.Â The main reason that people fail on a cash budget is a lack of tracking what they spend and assigning it a task.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The truth is that when you use cash, you spend more wisely. ” quote=”The truth is that when you use cash, you spend more wisely. “]
When you have only $200 for groceries, and you also know that it must last for two weeks. Â It forces you to think twice before you buy that extra item. Â A cash budget never lets you overspend because once the money is gone – it’s gone.
CASH ENVELOPE CATEGORIES
Getting started using the envelope system for budgeting is pretty simple. Â To begin, look at your budget. Â The following are cash envelope categories you should consider using:
- Dining Out
- Hair Cuts/ Beauty
- Doctor Visits
- Random Spending (which is your spend as you want – only if you can afford it)
- Doctor/Dentist Visits
You will notice that I didn’t include gasoline on my list.Â The reason I didn’t is that most people won’t overspend at the pump.Â Most of us just fill up our tanks and go about our merry way.Â You also don’t drive around and burn fuel or decide to fuel up because your neighbor did.Â It is on your budgetÂ but is not one you where you will overspend. Not only that, it is usuallyÂ much more convenient to pay at the pump.
PRINTABLE DIY CASH ENVELOPE TEMPLATE
When it comes to using the cash envelope system, you can purchase one such as that sold by Dave Ramsey or you can just use the envelopes in your desk drawer. Â I’ve even got a cash envelope template you can use as well (purchase HERE for $2.99).
HOW MUCH CASH DO I NEED?
Once you have your categories, you have to determine how much cash you need for each group. Â You will figure the amount based on your pay period.
For example, if payday is every two weeks, take the total monthly grocery budgeted amount and divide it by 2.Â You will then know how much money you will need for each of the two pay periods for that month.Â It is important you have a budget that works (including using budget printables as needed).
Next, review, each category you will use cash for and figure up the amount you will need. Â Once you have done that, you will also want to figure out how many of each denomination of bill you will need. Â List the total amount, by denomination, on a piece of paper. Â Take that, along with a check from your account for the amount, to the bank. Â You will make a withdrawal and then split up the cash into each envelope.
HOW TO USE THE DAVE RAMSEY ENVELOPE SYSTEM
Sometimes, it is easier to understand something if you can see it in action.Â Follow this simple cash budget example to see how it works.
START WITH YOUR REGULAR BUDGET
Let’s say you bring home $2,500 per month. You have completed your written budget and have items such as your mortgage, utilities, food, dining out, debts and other expenses.Â Most of your expensesÂ are paid with a check or electronic transfer. Those are not the categories to consider for your cash budget.Â Instead, look at those items that you don’t pay for all at once, but rather over time.
These are the items that will work best if you use cash.Â In this case, you will include groceries, clothing, random spending, doctor visits and dining out.Â (We don’t include fuel because there is never a chance you will overspend on fuel).
In this example, we will only use cash for these items:
Groceries – $500
Clothing – $100
Random Spending – $80
Doctor – $50
Dining Out – $100
DETERMINE HOW MUCH CASH YOU NEED PER PAYCHECK
As you can see, the budget above is based on your monthly income.Â Since you are paid every two weeks, that means your take-home pay is $1,250 twice a month.Â You only need enough money to cover half of each of these categories.Â Your spending for each will look like this for each pay period:
MONTHLY BUDGET DIVIDED FOR BI-WEEKLY PAY
Groceries – $250
Clothing – $50
Random Spending – $40
Doctor – $25
Dining Out – $50
Total cash needed: Â $415 per pay period
Now that you see what you have budgeted to spend on each category each pay period, you need to determine how many bills of each denomination you will need to get from the bank.
KNOWING HOW MUCH CASH YOU NEED FOR A CASH SYSTEM
Using the same cash budget example above, here is how you will do that:
Groceries – $250 —- 3 $50 bills, 5 $20 bills
Clothing – $50 — 2 $20 bills, 1 $10 bill
Random spending – $40 —- 2 $20 bills
Doctor – $25 —- 1 $20 bill, 1 $5 bill
Dining Out – $50 —- 2 $20 bills, 1 $10 bill
You need to get this cash from the bank.Â You can’t use the ATM as it will spit out only $20s and $10s and will not give you the correct number of bills.Â Make a note to hand to the teller that shows how to break down the cash:
3 $50 bills
12 $20 bills
2 $10 bills
1 $5 bill
Write a check for $415, payable to “CASH” and take it, along with your slip of paper to your bank.Â The teller will cash the check and give you the bills you need.
FILL YOUR CASH ENVELOPES
When you get home with your cash, it is time to add it to each envelope.Â Find the one for each category listed above.Â Pull the cash from the bank envelope and split it into each envelope, per the list above.Â Add the amount of the deposit to the front of the envelope, adding to any amounts that may be left from the prior pay period.
USING THE CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM
Once you have your cash and your envelopes, it is time to put them to work.Â The only – and I mean only – way that this will work is if you track every. Single. Transaction.Â I am not joking.Â Â Doing this can help you stay on track, and you also have to account for everything you spend.
For example, shop as usual at the grocery store.Â If your total is $20.17, you will pay with the cash from your groceries envelope.Â Place any cash you get back into the envelope and then deduct your purchase from the balance.Â So, if you had $100 and spent $20.17, the new total cash you have left will be $79.83.
The printable cash envelope template above includes lines on the envelope, so you have a place to track your balance.Â If you use your own, add it to the outside or keep a slip of paper inside.
Make sure you track every purchase. You can always see how much money you have left and where it was spent.Â ItÂ helps you monitor your spending at a glance.Â Once the cash is goneÂ – you are done spendingÂ money.
USING THE VIRTUAL CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM
I also get that sometimes, cash is just something you can’t do. You need (or just really prefer) using your debit or credit card instead. Is there a way you can apply this method when you spend using plastic?
Rather than get paper money to put into your envelopes, you can use either a virtual envelope or paper tracking to monitor your spending.
Virtual envelope systems, such as ProActive, help you monitor and control your spending but allow you the convenience of using your credit or debit card.Â Rather than paying with cash, you swipe but know how much you have left to spend on each category in your budget.
If you would rather opt for something that is free, you can print out cashless envelopes instead.Â They work in the same fashion as cash envelopes.Â You still write down the amount you have to spend on each form and as you shop, you keep track.Â When you are out of “money” according to your envelope tally, you are done shopping.
You can read even more and get started with different ways to use the envelope method even if you don’t use cash.
HOW TO USE A CASH METHOD WHEN SHOPPING ONLINE
So, what if you don’t shop in the store, but rather, make purchases online, how would that work with a cash budget?Â Can you even do that?Â Yes, you can.Â You just have to handle it a little differently.
The first option is to leave some of the money you normally get in cash, in your account.Â For example, if you spend $100 every paycheck through online purchases, get $100 less in cash.Â You can still account for it by using cashless envelopes instead.Â That way, you still monitor your spending and don’t blow your budget.
The other option is to still get all of the cash you normally need.Â Then, if you buy something online, head to the bank and re-deposit that back into your account.Â You still get the full benefit of using cash and seeing the money come out of your envelopes.
You still can use cash when you shop online, you just have to make some adjustments.
WHY THE CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM WORKS
The reason why the cash envelope system works is pretty simple. Â Accountability.
When you have to make yourself accountable for your spending, you are taking control. Â It also will help you spend less. Â If you only have $100 to spend on dining out over the next two weeks, you think twice about ordering take out three days in a row.Â When the money is gone – you are done spending!!!
It isn’t entirely about cash.Â It is learning self-control.Â That is the one thing everyone will gain in going through this process.Â It enforces this way of thinking. Â You will quickly learn to love using cash, and you will feel more in control of your finances.
Cash also has more emotion attached to it. You don’t think about the consequences of a purchase when you swipe a card. Â However, handing over that cold, hard cash sometimes hurts. Â You do think about each purchase a bit more.
We’ve been doing this for so long that I don’t know how to shop without my envelopes!Â Â It is routine, and it helps us always know, in a matter of minutes, how much money we have available for the things we need.
The post The Ultimate Guide to Using a Cash Budget appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
Heading off to college is exciting. Really exciting. You finally have freedom! You’re out on your own for the very first time, managing your studies, managing your social life and… managing your finances.
Despite being a big part of your newfound independence, personal finance is a subject you probably won’t find on your course schedule. If you didn’t take a personal finance class in high school and never had money lessons from your parents, you may not know how to manage a checking account as a college student.
“College students have very different needs for their checking account than their parents or other adults,” says Tommy Martin, CEO of Clear Path Financial Planning and a finance blogger at TommyMartin.com. If you live in a different city during the school year than you do during winter and summer breaks, for example, you may be after a bank for which location doesn’t matter.
Ok, so how do I manage my checking account in college, you ask? First, don’t get overwhelmed. Learning how to manage money while in college and getting a handle on checking account basics is simpler than you might think (oh, and the skills will serve you for years to come). Second, you can kick off your checking account education with these tips for managing a checking account in college:
1. Compare checking accounts before signing up
While your college life may center around your school campus, you should consider venturing off-campus to pick the right checking account for your lifestyle.
“Students typically sign up with a bank that’s on campus or close to campus,” says Sahil Vakil, a financial planner and president of MYRA Wealth in New Jersey. However, the nearest bank might not be the one that best fits your needs, he adds.
Instead of picking a bank based solely on proximity, consider all of your options, including banks with off-campus locations and online-only banks.
Martin agrees, saying that learning how to manage money while in college means considering all of your banking options rather than “automatically enrolling or choosing the official school bank just because it has the school logo on it.” There are other ways to show your school pride, after all.
2. Learn about checking account fees and rewards
Vakil and Martin both say a tip for managing a checking account in college is to consider an account’s fees before signing up. Costly fees can eat into your savings and spending money, which can be a blow for students who are not working full-time. When you are choosing a checking account in college, consider fees for:
- Monthly maintenance (essentially keeping your account open)
- Minimum balance (not maintaining one)
- ATM usage
- New checks
- Wire transfers
- Online bill pay
- Replacement debit cards
Martin says a checking account with no minimum balance requirement or minimum number of transactions could be a good fit for students. “It allows them to focus on their education” instead of worrying about incurring penalties, he says. “Even a $5 fee on a checking account with $60 in it can be devastating.”
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Costly fees can eat into your savings and spending money, which can be a blow for students who are not working full-time.
Martin also suggests finding an account that has a large network of no-fee ATMs located across the country to better manage your checking account as a college student. “Especially if you’re going to a school in a different state, the local bank from home might wind up costing you a lot in terms of ATM fees,” he says. If your parents plan to wire you money, find an account that doesn’t charge incoming wire fees, Martin adds.
While fees should be a focus when you are learning how to manage money while in college, don’t forget about incentives. You may be able to find a checking account that actually helps you grow your balance by paying interest or offering a cash back rewards program.
“If you have to pay for books or supplies, at least you can get some cash back and use it for a free dinner,” Martin says. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1
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3. Track your checking account balance
Luckily, you don’t need to take Banking 101 to figure out your funds, and tech makes tracking your balance and account activity easier than ever. Most banks let you log in to your account online (don’t get distracted in class!), and with a bank’s mobile app you can transfer money to friends, pay bills, deposit checks and check your balanceâall while you’re on the go.
Knowing your balance at all times is a tip for managing a checking account in college because it can help you avoid overdrafts and insufficient funds fees. It can also help you forecast your income and expenses to ensure you’ll have enough money to cover future costs. Surpriseâthat’s budgeting!
There’s no one-size-fits-all budgeting program or system, though. You can go old-school and track your budget on a printed-out budget sheet, or you can go tech-savvy with a budgeting and spending app. “What’s best for you is the one you’re actually going to use,” Martin says.
If you learn how to manage money while in college and make a practice of maintaining your budget, the habit will follow you after graduation.
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âCollege students have very different needs for their checking account than their parents or other adults.â
4. Secure your account
One of Vakil’s tips for managing a checking account in college is to make sure your account stays secure. Create a unique account name and password that you use only for your checking account, and never share your credentials.
Vakil says you can also enable two-factor authentication if your bank offers it and you’re looking for another way to improve the management of your checking account as a college student. “This additional layer of protection safeguards your sensitive financial data and strengthens the security of your account by requiring two methods of verifying your identity.”
For example, if you log in to your account from a new device, you may be sent a text message with a code that you’ll need to enter to access your account.
5. Keep an eye out for debit card holds
No matter where you bank, a merchant may place a hold on funds in your checking account when you use your debit card. Generally, a hold is placed for travel-related purchasesâsuch as at rental car companies, hotels and gas stationsâand used by merchants to protect against fraud and errors.
“Holds on a debit card can make it tricky for you to manage your finances,” Vakil says. For example, “when you rent a car, the car rental company might put a $500 hold on your account. If the balance in your account was $550, now you can only use another $50.”
Being aware of holds can be particularly important if you are managing a checking account as a college student and tend to have a low account balance.
If a merchant will be placing a hold, it will generally post a sign to notify customers. The hold will typically be removed after the funds are transferred to the merchant from your financial institution, typically within three to four days.
Knowing when a hold will be placed, the amount of the hold and how much money you have in your checking account can help you manage your checking account as a college student by avoiding overdrafts and missed bill payments due to insufficient funds.
6. Don’t let one mistake throw you off track
If you can learn how to manage a checking account as a college student, and more generally, how to manage money while in college, you can lay the groundwork for a solid financial future. Checking account mistakes may occasionally happen (oops, I didn’t budget enough for that spring break trip), but don’t let them discourage you to the point of apathy. Instead, try to continually expand your knowledge and practice healthy financial habits.
1Â ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPal, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Venmo and PayPal are registered trademarks of PayPal, Inc.
The post 6 Tips for Successfully Managing a Checking Account in College appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Yuttachai Saechan/Getty Images; realtor.com
Those who are fortunate enough to still be collecting a paycheck while quarantined or sheltering in place might expect to build up some serious savings. While you work from home, you’re avoiding your usual commuting expenses, and you’re probably saving money by not going to bars, restaurants, and movies, or skipping that vacation to Fiji.
But as spending decreases in some areas during self-isolation, it can creep up in others. To brace yourself and your budget, keep an eye on these expenses while youâre self-isolating at home.
If youâve gone from office life to Zoom life, youâre spending more time at home than usual, which could ramp up your household expenses.
âYour utility spending might be considerably higher if you’re spending more time at home cooking, charging devices, using lights and appliances,â says Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com.
To keep your utility bills down, turn off lights when you leave the room, open windows during the day to let in cool air, unplug devices that youâre not using, and consider turning down your water heater by a few degrees.
Even if youâre not hoarding (and you shouldnât be), you might find yourself spending more on groceries while you shelter in place.
For some people, an uptick in grocery spending will be offset by the money saved from not dining at restaurants. But if your local store is picked overâor if you pay fees for grocery deliveryâyou could spend more on groceries than usual.
âIâve been to a local grocery store, and the only thing that was available was organic, so I couldnât buy the generic. I actually had to spend more money,â says Steve Repak, author of the â6 Week Money Challenge for Your Personal Finances.â
If your grocery spending feels out of hand, be flexible and creative with your menu. Cook the food you already have at home before you head back to the store. Sites such as Eater have compiled resources for home cooks, including Pantry Cooking 101 and How to Stock a Pantry.
If youâre using a delivery service, place infrequent, larger orders instead of several small orders. Or consider curbside service; many stores are allowing free pickups where they bring your groceries right to your car, so you can save on delivery fees and tips.
3. Meal delivery and takeout
You may not be able to enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant, but you can order takeout and deliveryâand those indulgences can add up quickly. After all, itâs not just the meal youâre paying for.
âThereâs probably still a service fee, and on top of that you have to leave a gratuity,â Repak says. (It’s also a good idea to generously tip the workers who are delivering your food in these times.)
If youâre on a budget, reserve takeout and delivery for special occasions or those days when you just canât muster the motivation to cook.
4. Alcohol and other sources of comfort
If you find yourself decompressing with a glass or two (or three) of wine every night, your drinking habit could do a number on your budget. And you wouldn’t be aloneâalcohol consumption has shot up nationwide, and in states where recreational marijuana is legal, dispensaries are reporting booming business.
âSocial isolation is really strongly linked to physical and mental health problems, and the way we cope with a lot of them is by drinking more,â Repak says. âPeople are going to smoke more and drink more … and we need to find other healthier coping mechanisms to offset that additional spending.â
You may not want to totally forfeit your evening glass of pinot, but you can make your supply last longer by sipping a mug of (far more affordable) chamomile tea on occasion, or opting for a calming yoga video or breathing exercise.
Watch: Our Chief Economist’s View on the Pandemic, Mortgage Rates, and What’s Ahead
Youâve rewatched all your favorite shows on Netflix and Huluâso, now’s the time to add a Disney+ subscription, right?
Not so fast, Repak says.
âSave a little bit of money by just picking one of the streaming services,â he suggests, or at least donât pile on new subscriptions to the ones you already have.
To free up your budget, take inventory of your other monthly subscriptions, services, and other recurring expenses, and see if there’s anything that can be eliminated.
âTen dollars a month may not sound like a lot, but if you have five of those, that’s $600 annually,â Rossman adds.
6. Online shopping
If you turn to retail therapy to soothe your soul, your budget could take a hit. True, many retailers are offering deep discounts in order to move merchandise, but even discount purchases add up.
âImpulse buying is a potential trap,â Rossman says. âSome people fall victim to it more than others.â
Instead of clicking âadd to cartâ as a coping mechanism, Repak suggests cleaning out your closet instead.
âThis is a great time that we can offset our budget by decluttering our house or apartment,â he says.
Use sites like Poshmark to sell your clothes, or Mercari for your household items. Many donation centers such as Goodwill are still accepting donations, tooâjust call ahead to make sure your local store or donation drop-off location will take your items.
7. New hobbies you’re trying in quarantine
Our spending habits are highly personal, and you might find yourself throwing money at a new habit or hobby to fight cabin fever.
âItâs a worthwhile exercise to track your spending, especially now that so much is different,â Rossman says. âLook through your credit card and bank statements from the past month. Do you see anything surprising? Are there areas where you spent extra but didn’t feel it was worth it? These could be good ways to cut back.â
And remember: Even if quarantine has eliminated some of your old day-to-day expenses, itâs easy to overestimate how much youâre saving.
âMost people don’t have a great handle on their budget and spending habits anyway, and so much has changed of late,â Rossman says. âIt’s easy to overlook things.â
The post Watch Your Wallet: 7 Hidden Costs of Self-Isolating at Home During Coronavirus appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
5 Neglected Expenses That Can Ruin Your Vacation Budget
With the weather warming up, summer vacation isn’t too far away. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start a vacation budget and account for everything you’ll be paying for that week.
After all, you don’t want to have to cut your relaxation time short because you forgot that you actually have to pay for gas.
But there are other financial surprises too, ones that perhaps you don’t think very much about when sitting down to create your budget. Here are a few that maybe you have not taken into account just yet, but absolutely need to.
Let Mint.com help you create the perfect vacation budget.Â Click hereÂ to get started!
Despite free public parking not being a popular idea among money-hungry companies for a while now, a lot of us still forget that we have to pay for the damn thing. This may be a few bucks or a few dozen bucks, but either way you can’t forget it when budgeting for your vacation.
Do the research to find out the charges for each place you’re staying or going to. Going to see a ball game? How much does the park charge to park? Going to take the train into the city? How much do they charge and, if need be, how much does valet parking cost?
Add those up, and you might be surprised how much not actively driving your car can run you.
These days, Wi-Fi is just about everywhere, and just about everydiv uses it. While the airport Wi-Fi might be free, the hotel you stay in might want a few bucks extra for use of their signal. This is especially true in nice, upscale hotels, where Wi-Fi access could run youÂ $10-$20 a day.
So either annoy your family by checking into some rinky-dink motel, where Wi-Fi is free but everything is roach-ridden and moth-eaten, or factor in the money necessary for Junior to use his iPad on the coziest bed he’s ever slept on.
The Food Bill
Even though it’s part of our daily lives, many people don’t think about food when punching out their budget. And if they do, they vastly underestimate how much stomach fuel actually costs.
This goes for vacations as well. You should find out what restaurants in the area typically charge, so you don’t get blindsided by the high cost of steak. If you’ve rented out a house with a kitchen and fridge, take some time to deduce how much you and your family spend on food at home.
Then, take that total and add a bit more to the food budget. It’s vacation time, after all, and for many, relaxing and unwinding means more burgers and s’mores than during a regular workweek.
Checked Bag Fees
If there’s one thing all travelers can agree is pure evil, airlines charging people to check in their bags has be it. Some airlines, such as Southwest, will let customers get away with someÂ checked bags for free, but expect to fork over $25 or more for each additional one.
Checked bag fees need to be part of your budget every time, because it’s never, ever going away. Airlines make too much money off of it to abandon it simply because we don’t like it.
Either pack minimally, ensuring that you can get away with nothing but carry-ons and maybe one or two checked bags, or put a couple hundred bucks aside in the budget for the over packers in your family.
There was an episode ofÂ Full HouseÂ where Danny Tanner attempted to script the family’s Hawaiian vacation to the letter — every activity planned ahead of time, strict time limits on said activities, and naturally every penny accounted for.
This almost never happens. Vacations aren’t nearly that organized, and you will have some unpredictable moments, not to mention costs that you didn’t see coming. Maybe your children see an ad for horse riding trails and immediately start begging you to let them ride the horsies.
Sadly, horsies aren’t cheap, but thisÂ isÂ a vacation, so why not let them indulge?
The trick is to not indulgeÂ tooÂ much. Don’t do everything that sounds fun, because the inevitable overdraft charges on your bank account won’t be very fun. Leave enough room in your budget for unplanned, spontaneous activities, and stick to that window as closely as you can.
This way, you and your family will have a great, fun vacation, and you won’t still be paying for it months and months later.
Mint.com can help create a complete vacation budget just for you and your family.Â Click hereÂ to sign up and start!
The post 5 Neglected Expenses That Can Ruin Your Vacation Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.