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To benefit from insurance coverage, youâll need to pay a premium. A premium is a payment to your insurer that keeps your coverage in place. Insurance companies determine your premium by deciding what the risk is to insure you. Hereâs a breakdown of the basics to help you understand what a premium is, why you have to pay it, how it works and ways to reduce your costs.
What Is a Premium?
An insurance premium is effectively the cost of your insurance, whether for health, auto or life insurance. Most companies allow you to pay the annual premium via monthly installments. However, some companies may require you to pay your premium on an annual basis or a semi-annual basis. Some may even want the entire insurance premium up front. Companies often decide they want the insurance premium up front if you have previously had your insurance policy canceled for non-payment.
The price of a premium is usually decided by an actuary or underwriter who takes a base calculation. The base calculation determines what the risk is to insure you. After the base calculation, the company may discount it based on your health, driving record, location and other personal details. This is all based on the type of insurance youâre looking to secure, too.
Your premium may also be determined based on your insurance history. Every insurance company uses different criteria to determine premiums. Some companies use insurance scores based on personal factors like credit rating, car accident frequency, personal claims history and occupation. If your personal factors are attractive to certain companies, you may want to secure a plan with one of them. It could mean a lower cost premium.
You may also pay more money for higher amounts of coverage, whether youâre purchasing life insurance, car insurance, health insurance or any other kind of insurance.
The value and condition of what you are insuring can also change the amount of coverage you need. For example, if youâre a healthy 28-year-old with no kids, your life insurance premium may be very inexpensive because you might not need a large policy. However, the price could increase as you age and your health and family situations change because you may need more coverage.
How Can You Lower Your Rates?
The type of coverage you purchase affects your premium. If you get more comprehensive coverage with your insurance policy, it may raise your insurance premium. For example, if you insure your vehicle for all risks, you may have to pay more than if you insured it with a policy that doesnât include collision coverage.
Deductibles can reduce your insurance premiums, as well. An insurance deductible is the cost you pay before the insurance company pays anything. If your car is insured and you have a $1,000 deductible, you have to pay $1,000 before the insurance company will begin to cover any costs. If there are $3,000 in damages to your vehicle, you would have to pay $1,000 and the insurance company would pay the other $2,000. As a general rule, the higher your deductible, the lower your premiums.
In the case of health insurance, taking on a higher deductible, higher co-pays or longer waiting periods may lower your costs. However, if you can afford a plan with a lower deductible, you may want to take that. Lower deductible health plans offer customers more predictable prices for higher amounts of coverage.
Your homeowners insurance premium may be affected by the coverage limits you choose, your deductible amount, optional coverages you select, your homeâs age and condition, your claims history and your credit rating.
Car insurance premiums may be affected by your age, your credit score, your driving record, the age of your car, the type of coverage you chose, coverage limits you select, where you live and drive, and how often you drive.
Your life insurance premium may be affected by the amount of life insurance coverage you buy, the type of life insurance policy you select, the length of your policy, and your age, health, and life expectancy.
Some companies, specific policies or types of coverage have insurance limits. An insurance limit is the maximum amount of money the company will pay. Typically, the higher your insurance limit, the higher your premium. Itâs also the inverse of a deductible. You pay the part of the claim or claims thatâs more than the limit on your policy.
Insurance limits can be on a per occurrence basis or on an aggregate basis. For example, a per occurrence basis could be a $20,000 insurance limit on bodily injuries per person, per car accident. An aggregate insurance limit might be a $100,000 limit on construction costs in the event of a natural disaster.
Car insurance laws and policies typically list liabilities as a set of three numbers that stand for the coverage limits when youâre responsible for an accident. If your numbers were 22/66/15, your insurance would cover $22,000 for bodily injuries per person, $66,000 in total bodily injury coverage per accident and $15,000 for property damage per accident. For personal injury protection, collision and comprehensive coverage, the numbers are listed as a single amount for each type of coverage. Your state may have specific minimum limits for certain coverages, so make sure youâre getting a fair rate.
Healthcare laws often change, and many lifetime and annual health insurance limits are illegal. However, some health insurance policies still list annual limits or limits on the number of times certain treatments will be covered, such as acupuncture, chiropractic services and orthotics. Companies may also place limits on prescription medication to keep costs down. There may be policies such as âstep therapy,â which requires you to try less expensive drugs first, or quantity limits, such as only covering 30 pills in 30 days.
Your homeowners insurance policy will often list separate limit amounts for different types of coverage. The limit amounts for liability coverage â in case youâre sued by someone for property damage or injuries that occur on your property â may be different than the limit amount for damage to your home and personal property. Make sure you review all of your homeowners insurance coverage limits, such as the amount it may cost to rebuild your home (dwelling coverage), liability coverage and personal property coverage.
Itâs important to shop around for insurance because different companies have different target clients. You may be the target client for one company, but not for another. That means your premium may be lower with one company than another. The price you pay for your insurance may include taxes or fees, as well. And these could differ from company to company. Before shopping around, call your insurance company and see if theyâre willing to lower your premium.
In addition, insurance companies may decide to pursue a new market segment. That can lower rates on a temporary basis, or on a more permanent basis if that works for the company. In either case, you can get a better deal on your insurance if you are part of the demographic that insurance company wants to attract.
The best insurance company for you may not be the best insurance company for your parents or your best friend. It all depends on your age, location and many other factors.
The Bottom Line
Your insurance company will assess the financial risk of insuring you. The greater they perceive that risk to be, the more your premium will cost. Itâs important to make sure you let your insurance company know all the ways in which you are a low-risk or lower risk client in order to get premium reductions. After shopping around, youâll be able to find the insurance policies that are best for your financial situation.
Tips for Reducing Insurance Costs
- Consider all of the insurance options available based on your individual circumstances. This can help you save money. A comprehensive budget calculator can help you understand which option is best.
- If you need extra help weighing your insurance options, you might want to consider working with an expert. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs can be easy. SmartAssetâs free tool will match you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If youâre ready to learn about local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/skynesher, Â©iStock.com/kate_sept2004, Â©iStock.com/AndreyPopov
The post A Beginnerâs Guide to Insurance Premiums appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.
A 2015 study found that older adults lose more than $36 billion every year to financial scams. Unfortunately, con artists see the elderly population as an easy and vulnerable target.
The American Securities Administrators Associationâs President, Mike Rothman, explains that scammers take this approach because the current elderly population is one of the wealthiest weâve seen with such hefty retirement savings. Where the money goes, the con artists follow.
With so many scams targeting older adults, itâs essential to make yourself and your loved ones aware of the different types of cons. Here is a list of common financial scams that specifically target the elderly and how you can prevent them:
The Grandparent Scam
The grandparent scam is common because it appeals to older adultsâ emotions. Scammers get the phone number of a senior and they call pretending to be a grandchild. Making their lie seem more believable, the con artist will playfully ask the older adult to guess what grandchild is calling. Of course, the first reaction will most likely be for the senior to name a grandchild and then the scammer can easily play along, acting like they guessed right. Now the grandparent thinks they are talking to their grandchild.
The scam artist will then begin to confide in the grandparent, saying they are in a tough financial position and they need the grandparentâs help. Asking them to send money to a Western Union or MoneyGram, they plead for the grandparent not to tell anyone. If the grandparent complies and sends the money, the scammer will likely contact the senior again and ask for more money.
Avoid this scam:
- Never send money to anyone unless you have 100 percent proof that it is who you think it is. Scammers can find out quite a bit of information from social media and other methods, so donât think that just because they know a couple pieces of information about you and your family that it is legit.
- Verify that it is actually your grandchild on the phone by texting or calling the grandchildâs real phone number and verifying if it is him or her.
- Call the parent of the supposed grandchild and find out if the grandchild really is in trouble.
- Talk to your family members now and compile a list of questions only you and your family know the answers to. If a family emergency really does happen, you can ask the questions and know if it is your family member based on the answers.
âClaim Your Prize Now!â Sweepstakes Scam
The sweepstakes scam is when con artists contact the elderly either by phone or email and tell them they have won something, whether that be a sum of money or another type of prize. To claim the prize, scammers tell them they have to pay a fee. Once the senior agrees, scammers send a fake check in the mail. Before the check doesnât clear and seniors can realize it is a scam, they have already paid the âfee.â
Avoid this scam:
- Do not give out any financial information over the phone or email.
- Practice Internet safety by protecting your passwords, shopping on encrypted websites, and avoiding phony emails.
- Be skeptical of any message that says you have randomly won a prize and you must do something before you can claim it. Unless you specifically enter a contest, you most likely arenât going to randomly win a monetary prize.
Because of the Affordable Care Act that allows seniors over the age of 65 to qualify for Medicare, scam artists donât have to do much research about seniorsâ healthcare providers. This makes it simple for scammers to call, email, or even visit seniorsâ homes personally and claim to be a Medicare representative.
There are a variety of ways these con artists use this Medicare scam to target the elderly. One way is telling seniors they need a new Medicare card and to do so, they need to tell the âMedicare representativeâ what their Social Security number is. An additional way is they can tell seniors there is a fee they need to pay to continue their benefits.
Avoid this scam:
- Do not give out any information to someone you have not verified is from Medicare. Real Medicare employees should have your information on file so if you are skeptical, ask the person some questions to verify it is legitimate.
The âWoodchuckâ Scam
A common scam to target seniors who live alone is the âwoodchuckâ scam. Scam artists will claim to be contractors and will complete house projects if seniors agree to let them.
The scammers will gain seniorsâ trust and eventually come up with a variety of fake repairs that need to be done, such as a roof repair. This often results in seniors giving the fake contractors thousands of dollars.
Â Avoid this scam:
- Make sure the person doing your home repairs is a professional. Find out what company they work for and call and verify they are indeed a legitimate contractor.
Con artists are using senior homeownership to their benefit. The mortgage scam is when scammers offer a property assessment to seniors, telling them they can determine the value of their home. This scam has become increasing popular as housing confidence is hitting record highs and people are putting a large chunk of their income towards saving for new homes.
The scam artists make the process look legitimate by finding the homeâs information on the Internet and sending seniors an official letter detailing all of the found information. The scammers do this because it is an easy way to con seniors into paying a fee for the requested information.
Â Avoid this scam:
- Ensure the property assessment is legitimate by asking what company they work for and following up with the real company to verify.
Talk to Your Loved Ones
Older adults are often too embarrassed to tell authorities or a family member they have been scammed. Talk to the seniors in your life and let them know they can confide in you and let you know if they have been scammed. You can also have them read through this article and make themselves aware of the scams that could potentially target them in the future.
Check Your Credit Regularly
Check your credit regularly so you are aware of any suspicious activity with your accounts. You can check your credit for free on Credit.com and receive a free credit score updated every 14 days along with a credit report card, which is a summary of what is on your credit reports.
Get It Now
The post Financial Scams That Target the Elderly and How to Prevent Them appeared first on Credit.com.
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®.
Looking to turn your house into a healthy haven to protect your family from COVID-19? Try these six products to transform your space.
*Cover image sourced from Home Depot.
The post 6 Products You Need to Keep Your Home Germ-free and Sanitized in 2020 appeared first on Homes.com.
A lot of us donât like to think about this, but inevitably there will come a time where we will all need help taking care of ourselves. So how can we start preparing for this financially?
Many people opt to purchase long-term care insurance in advance as a way to prepare for their golden years. Long-term care insurance includes services relating to day-to-day activities such as help with taking baths, getting dressed and getting around the house. Most long-term care insurance policies will front the fees for this type of care if you are suffering from a chronic illness, injury or disability, like Alzheimerâs disease, for example.Â
If this is something you think youâll need later on, itâs crucial that you donât wait until youâre sick to apply. If you apply for long-term care insurance after becoming ill or disabled, you will not qualify. Most people apply around the ages of 50-60 years old.Â
In this article, we will discuss long-term care insurance, how it works and why you might consider getting it.Â Â Â
How long-term care insurance works
The process of applying for long-term care insurance is pretty straight forward. Generally, you will have to fill out an application and then youâll have to answer a series of questions about your health. During this point in the process, you may or may not have to submit medical records or other documents proving the status of your health.Â
With most long-term care policies, you will get to choose between different plans depending on the amount of coverage you want.Â
Many long-term care policies will deem you eligible for benefits once you are unable to do certain activities on your own. These activities are called âactivities of daily livingâ or ADLs:
- Incontinence assistance
- Getting off and/or on the toilet
- Getting in and out of a bed or other furniture
In most cases, you must be incapable of performing at least two of these activities on your own in order to qualify for long-term care. When itâs time for you to start receiving care, you will need to file a claim. Your insurer will review your application, records and make contact with your doctor to find out more about your condition. In some cases, the insurer will send a nurse to evaluate you before your claim gets approved.Â
Itâs very common for insurers to require an âelimination periodâ before they start reimbursing you for your care. What this means is that after you have been approved for benefits and started receiving regular care, you will need to pay out of pocket for your treatments for a period of anywhere from 30-90 days. After this period, you will get reimbursed for your out-of-pocket expenses and from there.
Who should consider long-term care insurance
Unfortunately, the statistics are against our odds when it comes to whether or not we will eventually need some type of long-term care. Approximately half of people in the U.S. at the age of 65 will eventually acquire a disability where they will need to receive long-term care insurance.Â Of course, the problem is, long-term care can be really expensive. Unless you have insurance, youâll be paying for your long-term care completely out-of-pocket should you ever need it.
Your standard health insurance plan, including Medicare, will not cover your long-term care. The benefits of buying long-term care insurance are that:
- You can hold on to your savings: Many uninsured seniors have to dip into their savings account in order to pay for their long-term care. Because itâs not cheap, many of them drain their life savings just to be able to pay for it.
- Youâll be able to choose from a larger variety of options: Being insured gives you the benefit of being able to choose the quality of care that you prefer. Just like with anything else, you get what you pay for when it comes to healthcare. Medicaid offers some help with long-term care, but youâll end up in a government-funded nursing home.Â
How to buy long-term care insurance
If youâve recently started thinking about shopping for long term-care insurance, youâll want to keep a few things in mind:
- Do you mind being insured on a policy with an elimination period?
- Can you afford all of the costs including living adjustments?
- Are you interested in a policy that covers both you and your spouse, otherwise known as âshared careâ?
There are a few different ways to go about getting long-term care benefits. You can either buy a policy from an insurance broker, an individual insurance company, or in some cases, your employer. Obtaining long-term care insurance through your employer is probably going to be cheaper than getting it as an individual. Ask your employer if itâs included in your benefits.Â
Many people also opt to shop for hybrid benefits insurance policies. This is when a long-term care policy is packaged in with a standard life insurance policy. This is becoming a lot more common in the world of insurance. Keep in mind that the approval process may be slightly different for a hybrid insurance policy than of that of a stand-alone long-term care insurance policy. Make sure to ask about the requirements before you apply.Â
Best long-term care insurance packages
There are not very many long-term care insurance companies that exist as there once was. Itâs hard to wrap our heads around purchasing something that we donât yet need. However, here are a few examples of companies that offer competitive long-term care packages:
- Mutual of Omaha: This company offers benefits of anywhere between $1,500 and $10,000. While the main disadvantage of this companyâs packages is that they do not cover doctorâs charges, transportation, personal expense, lab charges, or prescriptions, you CAN choose to receive cash benefits instead of reimbursements. This company also offers discounts for things like good health and marital status. This companyâs insurance policies offer a wide range of options and add-ons so you can make sure that all your bases are covered.
- Transamerica: This companyâs long-term policy, TransCare III, is good if you donât want to hassle with an elimination period. If you live in California, this may not be the best choice for you because Californiaâs rates are a lot higher than the rates in other states. Your maximum daily benefit can be up to $500 with this program, with a total of anywhere between $18,250-$1,095,000.Â
- MassMutual: Popular for their SignatureCare 500 policy which comes in both base and comprehensive packages, is a long-term care and life insurance hybrid. This is very appealing to many seniors wanting to kill two birds with one stone. This company also has a 6-year period as one of their term options, which is pretty high.
- Nationwide: This program sets itself apart from many other programs available because it allows you to have informal caregivers like family, friends, or neighbors. You will receive your entire cash benefit every month and it is up to you to disperse the funds as you would like. Currently, this company does not have their pricing available online, so you will need to speak with an agent to discuss prices.
Understanding Long-Term Care Insurance is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
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Your grocery bill can add up fast. From dinner entrÃ©es to snacks, the amount you spend directly affects your other financial goals. Luckily, there are some guidelines to ensure youâre not overspending.Â
Use the grocery calculator below to estimate your monthly and weekly food budget based on guidelines from the USDAâs monthly food plan. Input your family size and details below to calculate how much a nutritious grocery budget should cost you. Of course, every family is different. Some love coupons and leftovers, while others prefer fresh fish and aged cheese. Once youâve established your budget, use the slider to adjust your estimate to your spending habits.Â
Getting your food budget on point takes practice. With this grocery calculator and the right spending habits, youâll have enough for your living expenses and exciting financial goals like paying off loans or buying a house.
Grocery Budget Calculator
A moderate grocery budget will run you:
Weekly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.
Monthly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.
What kind of spender are you?
Does your estimate look right? If your spending habits don’t add up, explore these other budget options and choose what’s best for your lifestyle.
Thrifty This is the USDAâs estimated food budget for families that receive food assistance like WIC or SNAP.
Cost-Conscious This is an ideal budget for nutritious meals if youâre looking to save a little extra cash with leftovers and coupons.
Moderate This is the standard for affordable, nutritious, and balanced portions for most families.
Generous This budget gives you some spending wiggle room for finer foods or extra portions.
See where the rest of your budget is going Sign up for Mint
Monthly Grocery Budget
Ever wonder how much you should spend on groceries?Â The average cost of food per month for one person ranges from $150 to $300, depending on age. However, these national averages vary based on where you live and the quality of your food purchases.
Hereâs a monthly grocery budget for the average family. This is based on the national average and likely varies by location and shop. For instance, New York City grocers are going to be far more expensive than Kansas City shops. Additionally, organic grocery stores like Whole Foods are pricier than places like Walmart or Aldi.
Youâll also want to consider dietary choices, like gluten-free or vegan diets. These can significantly affect your budget, so consider planning your grocery list online to compare prices and find your preferred alternatives.
Finding a reasonable monthly grocery budget ensures you and your family have what you need, while not overspending. Look back at previous months using a budgeting app or credit card statements to see what youâve spent at the grocery store. Decide if you want to maintain your current budget or cut back.
Purchasing Groceries vs. Dining Out
Donât forget what you spend at restaurants when you consider your food budget. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend 11 percent of their take-home income on food. It doesnât all go towards groceries, though. Approximately six percent is spent on groceries, while five percent is spent dining out â including dates, lunches with coworkers, and Sunday brunch.
With this framework in mind, you can calculate your total food budget based on your take-home income. For example, Rita makes $3,500 per month after taxes. She would budget six percent for groceries ($210) and five percent for restaurants ($175). So sheâll need a total of $385 for food each month. With a little practice, sheâll better learn her habits and be able to accurately adjust her budget.
Tips for Reducing Your Budget
There are several ways to cut back on what you spend without sacrificing the quality and taste of your food. Trimming your food budget can help you stow away more for your financial goals, such as building an emergency fund or saving for a dream vacation.
Coupons are easy to find in the mail, in store, in your inbox, and even in a Google search. Many popular grocery stores are rolling out apps that track your coupons and savings. Be sure to download and register your email for new updates and sales. These usually work in person or online, so you can shop when and how you like.Â
While a single coupon might not give you a large discount, you can save a lot with multiple coupons. Itâs also important you make sure you actually need the item youâre purchasing instead of buying it for the sale. This can quickly get out of hand and push you over budget.Â
Freeze Your Food
Freezing your fresh food before it goes bad helps your wallet and the environment. You can plan ahead and freeze prepared produce to save time on weekday cooking, or chop and freeze last weekâs produce before shopping for more. Frozen vegetables are great in soups and stews, and you can use frozen fruits for healthy breakfast smoothies.Â
Plan a Weekly Menu Ahead of Time
Plan your meals ahead of time to determine the food items and quantities you need before you head to the grocery store. This way youâre more likely to buy the exact items you need and can plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try to plan for recipes that use the same ingredients so thereâs less to purchase. You can also make larger meals and plan leftovers for lunch so you have less to plan and purchase.
Bring Lunches to WorkÂ
A $13 lunch out might not seem like much, but it can blow your food budget fast if it becomes a habit. Push your monthly food budget further with delicious lunches from home. Salads, sandwiches, and leftovers are all easy, inexpensive, and nutritious.Â
Buy Store BrandsÂ
Many packaged products have a huge price disparity between brand name and generic items, and store brand items tend to be cheaper without sacrificing much quality. You can easily save 10 cents to a dollar per item, which adds up quickly over many trips.Â
Shop at a More Affordable Store
Your local farmers market, chain grocery, and organic store will all offer different specialties and sales. Check out the different shops in your area to find the best combination of quality and price. Some stores might even offer bulk items â great for your favorite products and those with a long shelf-life. Choosing cheaper staple items like milk and yogurt can also make a huge difference over time.Â
An accurate food budget that works for you helps you feel more confident and in control of your finances. Build a budget, learn your spending habits, and keep a grocery list to keep you on track and responsible so you can reach bigger goals, like a new vehicle or a down payment on a house.Â
Sources:Â USA Today |Â EurekAlert | Persistent Economic Burden of the Gluten-Free Diet
The post How Much Your Monthly Food Budget Should Be + Grocery Calculator appeared first on MintLife Blog.
In March I offered some financial advice to Michelle, a Mint user who was struggling with debt, a lack of retirement savings and a bit of family financial drama amongst her siblings.
Michelle was anticipating a cash bonus from her company and wasnât sure if she should save the money or use it to relieve her debt.
I recommended a two-prong approach where she uses the cash to play savings catch-up in her retirement account and knock down some of her debt, which, at the time, included a $3,000 credit card balance and $52,000 in student loans.
Six months later, Iâve checked in with the 38-year-old real estate developer, to see if any of my advice was helpful and if sheâs experienced any shifts in her financial life.
We spoke via email:
Farnoosh: Have your finances have improved over the last 6 months since we last spoke? If so, what has been the biggest improvement?
Michelle: Yes. I’veÂ aggressively been contributing to my 401(k) â about 50% of my pay – and had hoped to reach the annual maximum of $18,000 by June, but looks like it will be more like October. I also received a $40,000 distribution from a project that I closed.
F: What aspects of your financial life still challenge you?
M: Investing for sure. I never know if I’m hoarding too much cash. I am truly traumatized from the financial downturn.Â I just joined an online investment platform, but it wasÂ also overwhelming. Currently I have $45,000 in a regular savings account that earns 1.5%.
Another challenge is not knowing whether to just bite the bullet and pay off my student loans or to continue to pay them monthly. Â I hate that I’m still paying loans 16 years after I graduated and it’s a source of frustration [andÂ embarrassment] for me. Â I owe $36,000. Often times I have an inner monologue about the pros and cons of just paying them off but then my trauma from 2008 kicks inâ¦and IÂ decide to keep my $45,000 nest egg safely where I can check the balance daily.
F: I recommended allocating $45,000 towards retirement. Was that helpful? What are some ways you’ve managed to save?
M: Yes, I recall you saying you recommended having a total of $100,000 towards retirement for a person my age. Currently, I have $51,000 in my 401(k), $35,000 in a traditional IRA and $17,000 in my Ellevest brokerageÂ account, so I’ve broken the $100,000 goal.
I did add a car note to my balance sheet. My old car suffered a total loss (major electrical failure due to a sunroof leak!) and the insurance gave me a check for $9,000.Â I used it all towards the new vehicle (aÂ certified used 2014 Acura) and I’m financing $18,000.
F: Your dad’s home was a source of financial stress, it seemed. Were you able to talk with your siblings and arrive at a better place with that?
M: My dad actually has passed since we last spoke. He passed in February and so his will went to probate. My siblings and I have decided not to make any decisions about the house for at least one year. Yes, this is kicking the can further down the street however, they recognize that I maintain the house and pay the real estate taxes and so they are not pressuring me to move or to sell.
The new deed has been recorded and the property is under all our names and so everyone seems ok with knowing that I can’t do anything regarding a sale or refinance unilaterally.
So, for now, I live rent free other than payingÂ utilities, miscellaneous maintenance on the houseÂ and real estate taxes quarterly. This, too, is helping me saveÂ aggressively.
Also, the new car note has replaced the hospice nurse contribution so I’m not feeling that my budget is overburdened with the new car.
I think ultimately I will buy out at least two of my siblings and stay in the house. Verbally they have expressed being okay with this.
Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at email@example.com (please note âMint Blogâ in the subject line).
Farnoosh Torabi is Americaâs leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, sheâs become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.
The post Mint Money Audit 6-Month Check-In: How Did Michelle Allocate Her Windfall? appeared first on MintLife Blog.