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8 Ways to Save Money on Date Night

Whether you’re cozying up on the couch together with a bottle of wine or headed out to the trendy restaurant everyone’s talking about, date night is an essential part of most relationships.

“Date nights are important because they give new couples a chance to get to know each other and established couples a chance to have fun or blow off some steam after a rough week,” says Holly Shaftel, a relationship expert and certified dating coach. “Penciling in a regular date can ensure that you make time for each other when your jobs and other aspects of your life might keep you busy.”

Finding ways to spend less on date night can be easy if you're willing to be creative.

There’s just one small snag. Or, maybe it’s a big one. Date nights can get expensive. According to financial news website 24/7 Wall St., the cost of an average date consisting of two dinners, a bottle of wine and two movie tickets is about $102.

When you’re focused on improving your finances as a couple, finding ways to spend less on date night is a no-brainer. But you may be wondering: How can we save money on date night and still get that much-needed break from the daily grind?

There are plenty of ways to save money on date night by bringing just a little creativity into the mix. Here are eight suggestions to try:

1. Share common interests on the cheap

When Shaftel and her boyfriend were in the early stages of their relationship, they learned they were both active in sports. They were able to plan their date nights around low-cost (and sometimes free) sports activities, like hitting the driving range or playing tennis at their local park.

One way to save money on date night is to explore outdoor activities.

If you’re trying to find ways to spend less on date night, you can plan your own free or low-cost date nights around your and your partner’s shared interests. If you’re both avid readers, for example, even a simple afternoon browsing your local library’s shelves or a cool independent bookstore can make for a memorable time. If you’re both adventurous, check into your local sporting goods stores for organized hikes, stargazing outings or mountaineering workshops. They often post a schedule of events that are free, low-cost or discounted for members.

2. Create a low-budget date night bucket list

Dustyn Ferguson, a personal finance blogger at Dime Will Tell, suggests using the “bucket list” approach to find the best ways to save money on date night. To gather ideas, make it a game. At your next group gathering, ask guests to write down a fun, low-budget date night idea. The host then gets to read and keep all of the suggestions. When Ferguson and his girlfriend did this at a friend’s party, they submitted camping on the beach, which didn’t cost a dime.

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The cost of an average date consisting of two dinners, a bottle of wine and two movie tickets is about $102.

– Financial news website 24/7 Wall St.

To make your own date night bucket list with the best ways to save money on date night, sit down with your partner and come up with free or cheap activities that you normally wouldn’t think to do. Spur ideas by making it a challenge—for instance, who can come up with the most ideas of dates you can do from the couch? According to the blog Marriage Laboratory, these “couch dates” are no-cost, low-energy things you can do together after a busy week (besides watching TV). A few good ones to get your list started: utilize fun apps (apps for lip sync battles are a real thing), grab a pencil or watercolors for an artistic endeavor or work on a puzzle. If you’re looking for even more ways to spend less on date night, take the question to social media and see what turns up.

3. Alternate paid date nights with free ones

If you’re looking for ways to spend less on date night, don’t focus on cutting costs on every single date. Instead, make half of your dates spending-free. “Go out for a nice dinner one week, and the next, go for a drive and bring a picnic,” says Bethany Palmer, a financial advisor who authors the finance blog The Money Couple, along with her husband Scott.

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4. Have a date—and get stuff done

Getting stuff done around the house or yard may not sound all that romantic, but it can be one of the best ways to save money on date night when you’re trying to be budget-conscious. And, tackling your to-do list—like cleaning out the garage or raking leaves—can be much more enjoyable when you and your partner take it on together.

5. Search for off-the-wall spots

If dinner and a movie is your status quo, mix it up with some new ideas for low-cost ways to save money on date night. That might include fun things to do without spending money, like heading to your local farmer’s market, checking out free festivals or concerts in your area, geocaching—outdoor treasure hunting—around your hometown, heading to a free wine tasting or taking a free DIY class at your neighborhood arts and crafts store.

“Staying creative allows you to remain flexible and not bound to simply doing the same thing over and over,” Ferguson says.

6. Leverage coupons and deals

When researching the best ways to save money on date night, don’t overlook coupon and discount sites, where you can get deals on everything from food, retail and travel. These can be a great resource for finding deep discounts on activities you may not try otherwise. That’s how Palmer and her husband ended up on a date night where they played a game that combined lacrosse and bumper cars.

Turn to coupons and money-saving apps for fun ways to save money on date night.

There are also a ton of apps on the market that can help you find ways to save money on date night. For instance, you can find apps that offer discounts at restaurants, apps that let you purchase movie theater gift cards at a reduced price and apps that help you earn cash rewards when shopping for wine or groceries if you’re planning a date night at home.

7. Join restaurant loyalty programs

If you’re a frugal foodie and have a favorite bar or restaurant where you like to spend date nights, sign up for its rewards program and newsletter as a way to spend less on date night. You could earn points toward free drinks and food through the rewards program and get access to coupons or other discounts through your inbox. Have new restaurants on your bucket list? Sign up for their rewards programs and newsletters, too. If you’re able to score a deal, it might be time to move that date up. Pronto.

8. Make a date night out of budgeting for date night

When the well runs dry, one of the best ways to save money on date night may not be the most exciting—but it is the easiest: Devote one of your dates to a budgeting session and brainstorm ideas. Make sure to set an overall budget for what you want to spend on your dates, either weekly or monthly. Having a number and concrete plan will help you stick to your date night budget.

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“Staying creative allows you to remain flexible and not bound to simply doing the same thing over and over.”

– Dustyn Ferguson, personal finance blogger at Dime Will Tell

Ferguson says he and his girlfriend use two different numbers to create their date night budget: how much disposable income they have left after paying their monthly expenses and the number of date nights they want to have each month.

“You can decide how much money you can spend per date by dividing the total amount you can allocate to dates by the amount of dates you plan to go on,” Ferguson says. You may also decide you want to allot more to special occasions and less to regular get-togethers.

Put your date night savings toward shared goals

Once you’ve put these creative ways to save money on date night into practice, think about what you want to do with the cash you’re saving. Consider putting the money in a special savings account for a joint purpose you both agree on, such as planning a dream vacation, paying down debt or buying a home. Working as a team toward a common objective can get you excited about the future and make these budget-friendly date nights feel even more rewarding.

The post 8 Ways to Save Money on Date Night appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

What Is A Blog, How Do Blogs Make Money, & More

What is a blog and how does it work? Can you really make money blogging? How much do bloggers make?

Over the years, I have received many questions about blogging. People want to know what is a blog, how they work, is it really a way for people to make money, and so on. 

I completely understand all of the questions. While blogging has now been around for more than a decade, it’s still a fairly new way to earn money. I still have people give me funny looks when I tell them what I do for a living.

But, I didn’t really know what a blog was when I first started mine. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I didn’t know how people made money from blogs or anything else like that.

Pretty much everything I learned about blogging was through trial and error, and I made a lot of mistakes over the years, haha! Honestly, it’s because of those mistakes that I’m where I am right now.

My life has completely changed because of blogging. I was able to quit a job I didn’t love, I travel full-time, and I can retire pretty much whenever I want. 

It’s funny to think about how far I’ve come, especially since I had no idea what blogs even were.

Back then, I also never realized that you could learn how to earn money blogging. I don’t think I even looked into it because that was never my goal when I first learned how to start a blog. I certainly never thought blogging would drastically change my future, but I’m so glad I gave it a shot.

I had so many questions when I started my blog, and I learned 99% of what I know the hard way – by making mistakes.

I know that many new bloggers probably have some of the same questions I had because I receive hundreds of emails a day from readers asking how to start a blog, how to make a living through blogging, and more.  

Today, I’m going to help you by answering some of the most common questions I receive about blogging.

Some of the questions I talk about include:

  • Is 2021 too late to start a website/blog?
  • How do I come up with a blog name?
  • What blogs make the most money?
  • How do you design a blog?
  • How many views do you need to make money blogging?
  • How many blog posts should I have before launching?
  • How do I get my blog noticed by Google?
  • How long until a blog makes money?
  • How do blogs make money?
  • How do bloggers get paid?

I know that blogging can seem scary in the beginning, but remember that most other bloggers were in the exact same place you were when they started.

Blogging, just like any other hobby or job you start, takes time to learn what you’re doing. You have to do research, read about what other people have done, and learn as you go.

For some people this can be frustrating at first, but good things always do take time.

Blogging isn’t as easy as it looks from the outside. Even the most successful bloggers still spend time learning how to do new things. I am constantly signing up for new courses and learning from other people.

Even though it takes time and can feel difficult, blogging is something you can do. You can earn money blogging so that you can work towards living the life you want. 

One of the reasons I love blogging so much is that you can do it all on your own time. You don’t have to learn everything at once. You can start your blog and grow it at your own pace.

While there is no 100% guarantee that you will be able to earn a full-time living by blogging, I know many bloggers who are full-time and are very happy with it.

Content related to what is a blog:

  • 12 Free Resources To Grow Your Blog Fast
  • How I Successfully Built A $1,000,000+ Blog
  • How To Quit Your Job And Become A Full-Time Blogger

What is a blog? And your other top questions about blogging.

 

What is a blog?

Before we begin, I want to go over what is a blog definition and some other basic blogging questions.

A blog is a website.

Google’s definition of a blog is, “a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.”

A blog is content that is written on a website. It usually consists of articles, like the one you are reading right now.

What is a blog used for? Blogs can vary from person to person. 

You may create a blog to journal, to teach on a topic, to sell something, to tell a story, and so on. There’s no exact rules about what your blog has to be used for.

What is a blog post? Blog posts are individual entries on a blog. Blog posts usually include text, but they can also have photos, videos, infographics, and more.

An example of a blog post is what you’re reading right now. There is a title, its own URL (that’s the web address), and text where I share in depth information.

 

Is 2021 too late to start a website/blog?

No, it’s not too late, and you haven’t missed out.

The online world is still so new, and each year there are new ways to monetize and grow your blog.

For example, it wasn’t until the past few years that companies and advertisers started realizing the value of online influencers, such as bloggers, and that means even more opportunities to earn money blogging.

Before that, companies mainly wanted to advertise with celebrities, but it is shifting to bloggers and other online influencers (such as Youtubers and Instagrammers!).

The online world is a huge place and it is just going to keep growing. Every blogger earns a living in slightly different ways, and everyone has a different message and story. Plus, there are so many different ways to earn money blogging, and the options have continued to change and grow since I started blogging.

Of course, because the blogging world keeps changing, there will constantly be new things for you to learn, but that will probably always be the case for managing any kind of business.

So, if you are thinking about starting a blog, today is the day. Don’t let your fears hold you back any further! You can find my free How To Start a Blog Course here.

 

How do I come up with a blog name?

Deciding on a name for your blog is probably one of the hardest parts of blogging.

Even if you know exactly what you want to blog about and have some articles written, deciding on your blog’s name may be stopping you from actually creating your website and launching it.

I don’t remember how I came up with Making Sense of Cents, but I’m glad I did. It is still catchy, and I receive compliments on it to this day.

Coming up with a blog name shouldn’t lead to stress, so here are my tips for deciding on a blog name:

  • Make it easy. My blog name isn’t the easiest for people to spell, and even I sometimes jumble it when I’m spelling it. So, my top tip would be to make sure that your blog name is easy for people to type or spell out loud. I’ve seen blog names that are extremely long, contain words that are difficult to spell, and so on. Instead, you should make it as easy as possible for your readers to find you.
  • Think about what you’ll be writing about. Think about the topics you want to write about, who your target audience is, and more, and then jot down descriptive words that are related to each. Brainstorming like this is a good way to come up with a blog name!
  • Use a thesaurus to find similar words. If your first or second choices are taken or if you want to see if there are some catchier sounding blog names, using a thesaurus can help you with some new ideas.
  • Make it catchy. You may want to think of something funny, use alliteration, or something else to make your blog name catchy and memorable.
  • Use your name. If you don’t want something catchy and/or if you think you’re not creative enough, then just use your name. It’s super easy that way, and more and more people are starting to do this. 

See, creating a name for your blog can be easy!

 

What blogs make the most money?

There are many different types of blogs that make money, and you can monetize nearly any kind of blog.

So, how do you determine what to write about?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. I always recommend creating a blog around a topic that you are passionate about, that you are an expert in, that you like, or something else along those lines.

This can make blogging feel fun instead of like a chore.

You can blog about several topics or you can blog about one specific thing, such as personal finance. For me, I cover a ton of different topics here on Making Sense of Cents. I talk about personal finance, life, travel, RVing, sailing, self-help, and more.

Some things that you may want to think about when choosing your blog topic include:

  • What are you passionate about? I always recommend that you start by thinking about what you love doing. Perhaps it’s a sport that you really love, crafts, cooking, managing money, travel, or something else. Whatever it is, blogging about your passion is great because that will show in your writing, and your readers will enjoy reading your posts.
  • What blogs do you enjoy reading? If you are thinking about starting a blog, I’m assuming it’s because you probably enjoy reading blogs yourself. If that’s the case, then you may want to think about which blogs you really enjoy reading and possibly blog about something similar.
  • What are you an expert in? Now, you don’t need to be an expert in your blog’s topic to earn money blogging (more on that below in the next section), but if you are an expert at something, then this could be a topic that you blog about. There are many successful “How-To” websites because people love to learn new things through blogs. And, there is probably something you could teach (everyone’s an expert at something, even if you don’t realize that yet!). Think about the questions your friends and family are always asking you about, topics that you enjoy helping others with, and so on.
  • What things do you like learning about? Like I said above, you don’t need to be an expert in a topic to blog about it. People LOVE reading blogs from people who are learning or trying new things. This is because everyone has to start somewhere, and people love following the journey and seeing how something is actually done. So, if you are learning how to earn money blogging, for example, that could be where you start your blog. You can write about all of your mistakes, talk about what you’ve learned, show how you have tried and reviewed different options, and so on.

To learn how to make money with a blog, your blog can be about anything and/or everything. It’s entirely up to you.

Below is a list of possible blog examples and blog topic ideas. The list doesn’t end here either. Choose one, all, or some. It’s all up to you.

  • Lifestyle
  • Home
  • Family
  • Finance
  • Crafts
  • DIY
  • Small business
  • Outdoor activities
  • Fitness and health
  • Food
  • Inspiration and advice
  • Animals
  • Travel
  • Games
  • Relationships
  • School
  • Electronics, and more!

That’s the beauty of having a blog – it can be about anything and you can still earn money from it.

There are a few topics I would avoid if you aren’t an expert, like blogging about legal issues, tax issues, or medical advice. You could get someone in a lot of trouble if you gave them the wrong information.

 

What is the best blogging platform to make money?

Your blog should be self-hosted if you want to earn money blogging. This is actually one of the first things you should do.

I recommend that you start on self-hosted WordPress (this tutorial will help you start your blog the correct way). I cannot say this enough, but I do not recommend Blogger or WordPress.com (you want the self-hosted version, which is WordPress.org – confusing, I know). Buying that $10 domain name from Blogger or GoDaddy does not mean you are self-hosted either.

Unless you self-host your blog, advertisers, companies, and readers will still know you are on Blogger or free WordPress, and that can look unprofessional. Plus, your blog can be deleted at any time and for no reason if you are using a free version, which actually happened to me. Even though you may save some money in the beginning, not being self-hosted can hurt your chances of earning money through your blog.

Seriously, just trust me. Go with self-hosted WordPress, and it will significantly increase your chances of monetizing your blog.

If you want further proof, take a look at my past income reports. You can tell that my blogging income didn’t take off until I switched to WordPress. That right there is a lot of proof that being self-hosted on WordPress is the way to go!

To recap, the positives of being self-hosted on WordPress through Bluehost include:

  • Your blog will look more professional meaning you will increase your chances of making money online.
  • You will have complete control over your blog.
  • You own your blog, and it can’t be deleted for any reason.

 

How do you design a blog?

To create your blog, I recommend heading to my tutorial: How To Start A WordPress Blog On Bluehost.

After that, you will have three options when it comes to designing your blog:

  1. Designing your blog on your own
  2. Paying someone to design your blog
  3. Purchasing a premade theme (the quickest option and surprisingly affordable)

I usually recommend that a new blogger purchase a premade blog design, such as through Beautiful Dawn Designs. She provides great premade designs for just $45 and this is probably the easiest and quickest design option.

 

How much do I have to spend before I can earn money blogging?

When I first started my blog, I spent almost NOTHING on blogging expenses.

I spent less than $100 the first year and not too much more in the second year.

In fact, I probably went a few years when I was only spending about 1%-2% of my revenues on blogging expenses.

Now, some of my expenses include:

  • My computer
  • The actual blog (design, hosting, etc.)
  • Courses, guides, and ebooks
  • My email (newsletter) list
  • Virtual assistant and editor
  • Technical management
  • Transaction fees

But, you do not need to spend money on all of these things to earn money blogging.

Learn more about my expenses at My Complete List of Monthly Expenses for a Multi Million Dollar Blog.

 

How many views do you need to make money blogging?

You do not need millions of pageviews per month to earn money blogging, but if you want to increase your income, it will be important to increase your page views.

Every blog is different, and it isn’t always the blogs with the largest number of readers that make the most money. That’s because once you understand what your readers want, understand how to effectively reach out to companies for partnerships, and know how to charge the correct rate, you can make a good income online in many cases, regardless of the amount of pageviews you receive.

But, if you want to increase your pageviews, here are my tips:

  1. Publish high-quality blog posts. Readers come back to blogs with high-quality and helpful posts. I recommend that your blog posts be at least 750 words, but more wouldn’t hurt either. The majority of my blog posts are around 1,500 to 3,000 words (this one is close to 5,000 words!).
  2. Be active on Pinterest. Pinterest is one of my top traffic sources. To increase your pageviews with Pinterest, I recommend creating great images, making sure the description and title of your images are catchy, pinning regularly, and only pinning long images. I use Picmonkey to edit all of my images and Tailwind to schedule them.
  3. Be active on other social media sites. Social media lets you interact with your audience more and can help you expand your audience. Besides Pinterest, you may want to check out Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube, and others.
  4. Post regularly. If you want to earn money blogging, you should publish something at least once a week. Going for weeks or months at a time without a blog post can lead to readers forgetting about you.
  5. Network with other bloggers. You should look at other bloggers as friends and colleagues, not competition. This means you may want to interact with them on social media, reach out to them via email, attend conferences, and more. Of course, be genuine and give more than you take.
  6. Guest post. Guest posting is a great way to reach a new audience and helps build partnerships with other bloggers.
  7. Make sure it’s easy to share your content. I love sharing posts on social media, but it gets frustrating when some blogs make it more difficult than it needs to be. You should always make sure it’s easy for readers to share your content. This could mean making your social media icons easy to find, having all of the info input that is needed for sharing (title, link, and your username), and so on. Also, you should make sure that when someone clicks on one of your sharing icons the title isn’t in CAPS (I’ve seen this too many times). No one wants to share a blog post when it sounds like you’re screaming at them.
  8. Create catchy headlines. The title of your post is a major factor influencing whether readers click over or not. I like to use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to help me with my headlines.
  9. Learn SEO. SEO (search engine optimization) is not something I could teach in such a small section, but I recommend doing your research and learning more about what it is and how it can help you.
  10. Make it easy for readers to browse. If you want more pageviews, you should make it as easy as possible for readers to read your other blog posts. Readers should be able to easily find your blog homepage, categories, tags, search bar, and so on. Also, I recommend including links for related posts in every single one of your blog posts.

 

How often should I blog?

I recommend publishing a blog post at least once a week.

This is because consistency is important when it comes to blogging.

I started out publishing short blog posts a few times a week. Now, I try to do just one long blog post each week. I find that works best for me and Making Sense of Cents.

Others may decide to blog every single day, and some may try every other day. It all depends on what you would like to do.

 

How many blog posts should I have before launching?

I recommend simply just launching your blog with one blog post. You can continue to add more as you go.

I recommend this because you won’t have a ton of readers in the beginning anyways, so just getting started is going to be your best plan of action.

Too many people overthink this question, which just delays them from actually starting their blog.

 

What is the ideal length for a blog post?

The ideal length varies. I usually recommend that a blog post be at least 750 words.

For Making Sense of Cents, my blog posts are almost always at least 2,000 words, and I have written some huge whoppers (like this one) that are around 5,000 words too.

The ideal length for your article will depend on your niche, and the topic that you are writing about.

 

How do I get my blog noticed by Google?

For your blog to be found on Google search results, you’ll want to learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

You can sign up for The SEO Starter Pack (FREE Video Training) – Level up your SEO knowledge in just 60 minutes with this FREE 6-day video training.

  • The exact template that helped my site earn $95,000 in affiliate income last year
  • How I grew my blog to over 80,000 page views a month in 14 months
  • How to Optimize a Blog Post for SEO

 

How long until a blog makes money?

This is a hard question to answer, and it’s also one of the most common questions I receive.

As you can tell from my past income reports, it took me nearly a year of blogging to start earning a few hundred dollars a month from my blog. After two years of blogging, I was earning several thousands of dollars a month, which was all on the side of my day job.

I know some bloggers who were making thousands of dollars a month after just a few months of blogging. There are bloggers out there who began a year or two after me and are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. There are also other bloggers who aren’t making any money at all.

As you can see, blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme and there isn’t a timeline for when you will start to earn money blogging. However, if you are serious about it, you never know what it may turn into.

It all depends on you, the effort you put into your blog, whether you have the time to learn how to monetize your blog, and more.

 

How do blogs make money?

There are several ways to earn money blogging, including:

  • Affiliate marketing – I recommend signing up for 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income to learn more
  • Blog sponsorships
  • Display advertising
  • Product sales
  • Staff writing

I go in depth on each way monetization method here – How To Earn Money Blogging: Your Top Questions Answered.

 

How do bloggers get paid?

Many of you are interested in blogging, but you aren’t sure where the income actually comes from.

How does the money actually get to you?

You receive blogging income from whoever is paying you.

  • If it is affiliate marketing you are providing, then you are paid by the company that makes the product or service. When someone buys something or signs up through your link, that’s when you get.
  • If someone is paying you to place an advertisement on your website, then you get paid by the company who you are advertising for.
  • If you are publishing a sponsored post, then you are paid by the company who is sponsoring that post.
  • If you have display ads on your website, such as with Google Adsense, then you are paid by Google or by any number of other companies.

There are many companies and blogging networks out there that you can use to earn money blogging, and they usually pay you through PayPal or with a check in the mail.

 

What blogging ebooks and courses do you recommend?

It takes a lot of work to grow and build a successful blogging business!

If you want to earn money blogging, then you may want to look into buying ebooks and/or courses that will teach you about the topics that will help you become a better blogger from the very beginning. Plus, there are many blogging secrets that you just can’t find by searching the internet. So, by taking a course or reading an ebook, you will learn the exact steps to take to help you succeed.

I’m almost always taking new blogging-related courses because I know that there is always something new to learn.

Here are the ebooks and courses that I recommend for bloggers:

  • Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I share my exact strategy and tips in this very informative online course. If you’re a blogger, then you NEED this course. I show you exactly how to make passive income from blogging, even while you’re sleeping.
  • 21 Strategies I Used to Increase My Monthly Page Views from 17k to 400k+ in 10 Months. Lena Gott’s guide is full of great information on how to increase your blog’s page views. If you are feeling stuck or if you are a new blogger, check out this resource! Lena went from 17,000 monthly page views to 400,000 and shares all of her best tips in this guide.
  • Making Sense of Sponsored Posts. I launched this course with my sister, Alexis of Fitnancials, in 2018 to help bloggers earn money through sponsored posts. Between the two of us, we earn around $20,000-$30,000 a month from sponsored posts. We teach finding sponsorship deals, maintaining partnerships, and how to always make sure that you are helping your readers.
  • My favorite Pinterest course is Pinterest Traffic Avalanche. This course shows you how to get free traffic from Pinterest to your blog. You’ll learn about Pinterest SEO, how to set up Rich Pins, how to create viral content, how to make Pinterest images, all about group boards, and many other valuable Pinterest strategies.
  • If you want to learn about Facebook ads, I recommend reading How One Blogger Grew His Blog to Over 2 Million Visitors In A Year.

The blogging ebooks and courses above will help you to create a successful blog. They will show you how to master Facebook, get crazy traffic from Pinterest, grow your blogging income, and more.

 

If blogging is so great, then why doesn’t everyone do it?

I hear questions like this pretty often. I also get a lot of people asking me, “If it’s so easy, why don’t you just start multiple blogs and make even more money?”

Blogging is not printing money.

It’s not a scam, and it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme.

Learning how to earn money blogging is work, and just like with all jobs – not everyone wants what you want.

And, for every successful blog out there, there are probably hundreds of bloggers who will never earn money blogging. While you can earn money blogging, not all bloggers will.

It would be like saying that 100% of people who start a business will see success. That is just never going to happen – businesses fail, business owners have a change of heart, and others just don’t find it enjoyable.

I know I am always talking about the positives of blogging, but I also like to mention how it’s not the easiest.

After all, if blogging was easy, then everyone would do it and everyone would make thousands of dollars a month.

But as you know, that’s not the case.

Not everyone is going to earn money blogging because it is WORK! Most new bloggers quit just a few months in. A few months is not enough time to see if your blog will be successful. It took me six months before I started to earn money blogging, and I only earned $100. Now, I have made over $5,000,000 from my blog over the years.

It’s funny/weird to think about what life would be like if I would have quit back then.

Just like you, I went from asking “what is a blog?” to where I am now. And, I’m constantly learning new things about blogging and that is one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much.

Once you realize that blogging is hard, you will be ahead of 99% of everyone else in the game. Don’t assume, like most people do, that blogging is easy money.

Starting a blog can be difficult. But, all bloggers start at the same point.

I remember being so lost when I first started my blog. I had to learn everything the hard way – it sure was difficult at times.

But, I have always really enjoyed blogging. I think that is so important when it comes to this type of business – you either need to have passion in your blog and/or passion in what your blog allows you to do in your free time (such as travel or spending more time with your family).

 

Have other blogging questions?

Don’t fret!

I have other blog posts similar to this one where I have answered many other blogging questions.

Please head to How To Earn Money Blogging: Your Top Questions Answered for answers to questions such as:

  • How does a blogger network with other bloggers?
  • What processes do you have with new blog posts?
  • In what ways can I start making money from a blog?
  • What is affiliate marketing?
  • What are sponsored posts?
  • What is display advertising?
  • Can I create my own product to sell on my blog?
  • Do you have to pay taxes on blogging income?
  • Where do you get your photos from?
  • Why do I need an email list for my blog?
  • How do you think of ideas for new blog posts?

I was going to include all of those questions here but that would have made this blog post well over 10,000 words!

What other questions do you have about blogging?

The post What Is A Blog, How Do Blogs Make Money, & More appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

The Baby Steps Explained, And Why They Work!

These are the steps that introduced me and my husband to what financial independence is and for that I am eternally grateful. But a lot of important considerations get looked over if you just find a list of the steps…

The post The Baby Steps Explained, And Why They Work! appeared first on Modern Frugality.

Source: modernfrugality.com

What’s a Good Credit Score?

Whats a good credit score?

Your credit score is incredibly important. In fact, this number is so influential on various financial aspects of life that it can determine your eligibility to be approved for credit cards, car loans, home mortgages, apartment rentals, and even certain jobs. Knowing what your credit score is, and what range it falls under, is important so you can decide what loans you can to apply for, and if necessary, if steps need to be taken to improve your score.

So what constitutes a good credit score?

The Credit Score Range Scale

The most common credit score used by lenders and other business entities is the FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850. The bigger the number, the better. To create credit scores, FICO uses information from one of the three major credit bureau agencies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Knowing this range is important because it will help you understand where your specific number fits in.

Know what factors influence a good credit score to help improve your own credit health.

As far as lenders are concerned, the lower a consumer’s number on this scale, the higher the risk. Lenders will often deny a loan application for those with a lower credit score because of this risk. If they do approve a loan application, they’ll make consumers pay for such risk by means of a much higher interest rate.

Understand Your Credit Score

Within the credit score range are different categories, ranging from bad to excellent. Here is how credit score ranges are broken down:

Bad credit: 630 or Lower

Lenders generally consider a credit score of 630 or lower as bad credit. A number of past activities could have landed you in this category, including a string of late or missed credit card payments, maxed out credit cards, or even bankruptcy. Younger people who have no credit history will probably find themselves in this category until they have had time to develop their credit. If you’re in this bracket, you’ll be faced with higher interest rates and fees, and your selection of credit cards will be restricted.

Whats a good credit score?

Fair Credit: 630-689

This is considered an average score. Lingering within this range is most likely the result of having too much “bad” debt, such as high credit card debt that’s grazing the limit. Within this bracket, lenders will have a harder time trusting you with their loan.

Good Credit: 690-719

Having a credit score within this range will afford you more choices when it comes to credit cards, an easier time getting approved for various loans, and being charged much lower interest rates on such loans.

Excellent Credit: 720-850

Consider your credit score excellent if your number falls within this bracket. You’ll be able to take advantage of all the fringe benefits that come with credit cards, and will almost certainly be approved for loans at the lowest interest rates possible.

Understand the factors that make up a good credit score.

Whats a good credit score?

What’s Your Credit Score?

Federal law allows consumers to check their credit score for free once every 12 months. But if you want to check more often than this, a fee is typically charged. Luckily, there are other avenues to take to check your credit score.

Mint has recently launched an online tool that allows you to check your credit score for free without the need for a credit card. Here you’ll be able to learn the different components that affect your score, and how you can improve it.

You’ll be able to see your score with your other accounts to give you a complete picture of your finances. Knowing what your credit score is can help determine if you need to improve it to help you get the things you need or want. Visit Mint.com to find out more about how you can access your credit score – for free.

Lisa Simonelli Rennie is a freelance web content creator who enjoys writing on all sorts of topics, including personal finance, investing in stocks, mortgages, real estate investments, and anything else to do with the world of economics.

The post What’s a Good Credit Score? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits

Before the coronavirus reached the U.S., unemployment was low and few could have anticipated a global pandemic. However, as the pandemic and ensuing recession took hold, a record-breaking number of people filed for unemployment benefits to stay financially afloat.

“COVID-19 led to an incredible number of American workers being without work,” says Julia Simon-Mishel, an unemployment compensation attorney. “And it’s caused a huge need for individuals to file for unemployment insurance.”

Unemployment insurance, or unemployment benefits, can offer an essential lifeline. But if you’ve never accessed these benefits before, you may have questions about how they work. You might also be asking: What do I do when my unemployment benefits run out and I’m still unemployed?

This article1 offers tips about what you need to know about filing an unemployment claim. It also addresses the following questions:

  • How do you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits?
  • Can your unemployment benefits be extended?
  • What can you do when unemployment runs out?
  • Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?

A record number of people have filed for unemployment, and many are wondering what to do when unemployment runs out.

If you’re just getting ready to file or need a refresher on the basics of unemployment benefits, read on to have your questions answered.

If you’re already collecting benefits and want to know what happens once you reach the end of the benefit period, skip ahead to “Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out.”

Common questions about unemployment benefits

Experiencing a job loss is challenging no matter what. Keep in mind that you’re not alone, and remember that unemployment benefits were created to help you.

As you consider how to prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, remember that you're not alone.

While they’re designed to provide financial relief, unemployment benefits are not always easy to navigate. Here’s what you need to know to understand how unemployment benefits work:

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment insurance provides people who have lost their job with temporary income while they search for and land another job. The amount provided and time period the benefits last may vary by state. Generally, most states offer up to half of a person’s previous wages in unemployment benefits for 26 weeks or until you land another full-time job, whichever comes first. Requirements and eligibility may vary, so be sure to check your state’s unemployment agency for guidance.

How do you apply for unemployment benefits?

Depending on where you live, claims may be filed in person, by phone or online. Check your state government’s website for details.

Who can file an unemployment claim?

This also may vary from state to state, but eligibility typically requires that you lost your job or were furloughed through no fault of your own, in addition to meeting work and wage requirements. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government loosened restrictions, extending unemployment benefits to gig workers and the self-employed.

When should you apply for unemployment benefits?

Short answer: As soon as possible after you lose your job. “If you are someone who has had steady W2 work, it’s important that you file for unemployment the moment you lose work,” Simon-Mishel says. The longer you wait to file, the longer you’re likely to wait to get paid.

When do you receive unemployment benefits?

Generally, if you are eligible, you can expect to receive your first benefit check two to three weeks after you file your claim. Of course, this may differ based on your state or if there’s a surge of people filing claims.

Can unemployment benefits be extended? Check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

2020 enhancements to unemployment benefits for freelance and contract workers

In early 2020, the U.S. government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. In addition to other benefits, the CARES Act created a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This program provides unemployment benefits to independent contractors and other workers who were typically ineligible. That means that if you don’t have steady W2 income—for instance, freelance and contract workers, those who file 1099s, farmers and the self-employed—you still may qualify for unemployment benefits.

“That program is a retroactive payout,” Simon-Mishel says. “If you’re just finding out about that program several months after losing your job, you should be able to file and get benefits going back to when you lost work.”

Because legislation affecting unemployment benefits continues to evolve, it’s important that you keep an eye out for any additional stimulus programs that can extend unemployment benefits. Be sure to regularly check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

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“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you.”

– Julia Simon-Mishel, unemployment compensation attorney

Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out

In a perfect world, your job leads would become offers long before you reached the end of your unemployment benefits. But in reality, that’s not always the case.

If you’re still unemployed but haven’t yet exhausted your benefits and extensions, you may want to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits as early as possible so you don’t become financially overwhelmed. Here are four tips to help you get through this time:

Talk to service providers

Reaching out to your utility service providers like your gas, electric or water company is one of the first steps John Schmoll, creator of personal finance blog Frugal Rules, suggests taking if you’re preparing for the end of unemployment benefits.

“A lot of times, either out of shame or just not knowing, people don’t contact service providers and let them know what their situation is,” Schmoll says. “[Contact them to] see what programs they have in place to help you reduce your spending, and basically save as much of that as possible to help stretch your budget even further.”

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Save what you can

To help prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, a few months before your benefits end, Schmoll suggests cutting back spending as much as possible, focusing only on necessities.

“If you can try and save something out of the benefits that you’re receiving while you’re receiving them—it doesn’t matter if it’s $10 or $20—that’s going to help provide some cushion,” Schmoll says. Keep those funds in a separate account if you can, so you’re not tempted to spend them. That way you’re more prepared in case of an emergency.

If you hunkered down during your period of unemployment and were able to save, try to resist the urge to splurge on things that aren’t necessary.

“There might be temptation to overspend, but curtail that and focus on true necessities,” Schmoll says. “That way when [or if] you receive an extension on your benefits, you now have that extra money saved.”

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Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Seek additional financial aid

If you find that your savings and benefits aren’t covering your expenses, and you’re reaching a point where you no longer qualify for benefits, look into other new benefit programs or features designed to help during times of crisis.

For example, there are programs across the country to assist people with rent or mortgages, Simon-Mishel says. Those programs are generally designed to keep those facing financial hardship from losing their home or apartment. You may need to show that you are within the programs’ income limits to qualify, or demonstrate that your rent is more than 30 percent of your income. These programs vary widely at the state and even city level, so check your local government website to see what might be available to you.

As you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, explore which government benefits or government agency may be best suited for your needs.

Keep up with the news

During economic downturns, government programs and funds often change to keep up with evolving demand.

“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you,” says Simon-Mishel. “You should closely pay attention to the social media of your state unemployment agency and local news about other extension programs that might be added and that you might be eligible for.”

Pay attention to social media and local news as you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Options for extending your unemployment benefits

If you’re currently receiving benefits, but they’ll be ending soon, you’re likely wondering what to do when your unemployment runs out and asking if your unemployment benefits can be extended. Start by confirming when you first filed your claim because that will determine your benefit end date.

If you’re wondering, “Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?” the answer is yes, but you’ll have to wait until your current “benefit year” expires. Note that a benefit year is 12 months from when you file a claim. If you filed at the beginning of June, for example, you generally can’t file again until the beginning of the following June.

You may get 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, depending on your state’s rules at the time. Most states extended the payout period to 39 weeks in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Check your state’s website for the particulars on what to do when your unemployment runs out.

If your claim is still active but you’ll be in need of additional financial relief after your unemployment benefits run out, here are your options:

File for an unemployment extension

During extraordinary economic times, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government may use legislation like the CARES Act to offer people more benefits for a longer period of time, helping many people concerned about whether unemployment benefits can be extended.

Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out? It can vary by state, so reach out to your unemployment office.

For example, in 2020, for most workers who exhaust, or receive all of, their unemployment benefits, a 13-week extension should automatically kick in, Simon-Mishel says. This would bring you up to 39 weeks total. However, if more than a year has passed since you originally filed and you need the extension, you will likely need to file a short application provided by the government. Details vary by state.

As you’re determining what to do when your unemployment runs out, reach out to your unemployment office. It’s important to do this before your benefits expire so you can avoid a missed payment. You can also confirm you’re eligible and that you can refile for unemployment after it runs out.

Ask about the Extended Benefits program in your state

Can unemployment benefits be extended beyond that? In periods of high unemployment, you may qualify for a second extension, depending on your state.

“After those [first] 13 weeks, many states have added a new program called Extended Benefits that can provide another 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment when a state is experiencing high unemployment,” Simon-Mishel adds. This means you may be able to receive a total of up to 59 weeks of unemployment benefits, including extensions. The total number of weeks of unemployment you may receive varies based on your state and the economic climate.

It’s hard enough keeping up with everything as you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, so don’t worry if you don’t have your state’s benefits program memorized. Visit your state’s unemployment insurance program page to learn more about what benefits are available to you.

For anyone considering what to do when unemployment runs out, it's important to take things one day at a time.

Beyond unemployment benefits

While life and your finances may seem rocky now, know that you’re not alone. Remember that there are resources available to help support you, and try to take things one day at a time, Schmoll says.

“Realize that at some point your current situation will improve.”

If you find that your benefits aren’t covering all of your expenses, now may be the time to dip into your cash reserve. Explore these tips to determine when it’s time to use your emergency fund.

1 This article is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Eligibility for unemployment benefits may be impacted by variations in state programs, changes in programs, and your circumstances. If you have questions, you should consider consulting with your legal counsel, at your expense, or seek free assistance from your local legal aid organization.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

The post How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Money Moves to Make in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s

Reaching your twenties is an exciting milestone for most as it means you’ve officially entered adulthood. Along with that milestone comes new responsibilities and worries that we didn’t picture when our teenage selves dreamed of turning 21. We imagined our college graduation, moving into our first apartment, and launching our new career. That vision didn’t include dealing with student loan debt, taking on a low paying entry-level job, or having to confront that despite spending 4 years in college, you’re still unsure how the world of personal finance actually works.

It’s easy to dismiss it all because well you’re a 20 something, and you’ll have plenty of time to play catch up. The reality is that each decade plays an important role in our future financial health. Take the time now to learn about your money and follow the money moves outlined below to put yourself on a path of lifelong financial success and eventual freedom.

Money Moves to Make in Your 20’s:

Learn How To Budget

Building a budget doesn’t have to be overly complicated or time-consuming. It’s actually the first step in putting yourself in control of your finances because it means you know where your money goes each month. The good news is that there are lots of apps and online tools that can make the process a breeze. Consider a system like Mint that will connect to your accounts and automatically categorize your spending for you. The right budgeting tool is simply the one you’ll stick with long term.

Pay Off Debt

Debt isn’t all bad. It may be the reason you were able to earn your degree, and a mortgage may help you one day buy a home. It can also quickly overrun your life if you aren’t careful. Now’s the perfect time before life gets more hectic with family commitments to buckle down and tackle any loans or credit card balances so you can be debt-free going into your 30’s.

Build a Cash Cushion

The financial downturn caused by the pandemic has reminded the whole world of the importance of having an emergency fund. We don’t know what life is going to throw at us and having a cushion can help you navigate the uncertain times. Though it’s not all about having a secret stash of cash to deal with the bad news of life (medical bills, car repair, layoff), it can also be about having the cash to seize an exciting opportunity. Having savings gives you the freedom and security to deal with whatever life brings your way – good or bad.

Understand Credit

Your credit score can dictate so much of your life. That little number can play a big role in the home you buy, the car you drive, and even the job you hold as some employers (especially in the finance world) will pull your credit. It’s important that you check your credit report and score (also available through Mint), learn how it’s calculated, and work to improve it.

Money Moves to Make in Your 30’s:

Invest For Retirement

Now that you’ve spent your 20’s building the foundation for your financial life, it’s time to make sure you’re also tackling the big picture goals like saving and investing for retirement. I typically recommend that clients save 10% to 15% of their annual income towards retirement. That may seem like an insurmountable goal, but starting small by saving even 1 to 3% of your salary can make a big difference in the future. Also, make sure to take advantage of any matching contributions that your employer may provide in your retirement plan. If, for example, they offer to match contributions up to 6%, I would try hard to work towards contributing at least 6%.

Buying Your First Home

Buying your first home is a top goal for many, but it also seems to be getting increasingly more difficult especially if you live in a major city. The most important steps you can take is to improve your credit score, pay down high-interest debt, and be aggressive about saving for a down payment. Saving 20% down will help you qualify for the best loan terms and interest rate, but there are still home loans available even if you aren’t able to save that much. Just be realistic with your budget and what you can afford. Don’t let a lender or real estate agent determine what payment will fit into your budget.

Be Covered Under These Must-Have Insurances

You’ve spent the last several years building your savings and growing your family. It’s now crucial that you have the proper insurance coverage in place to protect your assets and your loved ones. Life and disability insurance are top of the list. Life insurance doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. Get a quote for term-life that will last a set number of years and protect your partner and children during those crucial years that they depend on you. Disability insurance protects your income if you become sick or injured and are unable to work. Your earning ability is one of your biggest assets during this time, and you should protect it. This coverage may be offered through your employer, or you can request a quote for an individual policy.

Invest in Self-Care and Well Being

Mental health is part of self-care and wealth. Most people don’t talk about how financial stress and worry affect their overall health. When you can take care of yourself on all levels, you will feel healthier and wealthier, and happier. But it is not easy. It takes work, effort, awareness, and consciousness to learn how to detach the value in your bank account or financial account from your self-worth and value as a human being. When you feel emotional about your money, investments, or the stock market, learn ways to process them and take care of yourself by hiring licensed professionals and experts to help you.

Money Moves to Make in Your 40’s:

Revisit Your College Savings Goal

As your kids get older and prepare to enter their own journey into adulthood, paying for college is likely a major goal on your list. Consider opening a 529 plan (if you haven’t already) to save for their education. 529 plans offer tax advantages when it comes to saving for college. There are lots of online resources that can help you understand and pick the right plan for you. Visit https://www.savingforcollege.com. This is also a great time to make sure you’re talking to your kids about money. Give them the benefit of a financial education that you may not have had.

Get Aggressive with Retirement Planning

Your 40’s likely mark peak earning years. You’ll want to take advantage of your higher earnings to maximize your retirement savings especially if you weren’t able to save as much in your 20’s and 30’s. Revisit your retirement plan to crunch the numbers so you’ll be clear on what you need to save to reach your goal.

Build More Wealth

You’ve arrived at mid-life probably feeling younger than you are and wondering how the heck that big 4-0 got on your birthday cake. We typically associate being 20 with being free, but I think we’ve got it wrong. There is something incredibly freeing about the wisdom and self-assurance that comes with getting older. You’ve proved yourself. People see you as an adult. Your kids are getting older and your finances are more settled. Now’s the time to kick it up to the next level. Look for ways to build additional wealth. This may mean tapping into your entrepreneurial side to launch the business you’ve dreamed of or buying real estate to increase passive income. Now’s also a great time to find a trusted financial advisor who can help guide your next steps and help you plan the best ways to build your wealth.

Revisit Your Insurance Coverage

Insurance was crucial before, but it’s time to revisit your coverage and make sure you’re protected especially if you decide to launch a business or buy additional real estate. This is also where a financial advisor can help you analyze your coverage needs and find the policies that will work for you.

Consider Estate Planning

Estate planning (think wills, trusts, power of attorney) isn’t the most fun / exciting topic. It involves imagining your gone and creating a plan for the loved ones you leave behind. It is also often overlooked by adults in their younger years. It’s easy to assume estate planning is something the wealthy need to do. It really comes down to whether you want to decide how your life savings will be managed or if you want a court to decide. It’s also crucial for parents with children who are minors to select a guardian and have those uncomfortable conversations with their family members about who would care for the children if the worst were to happen. It’s also a good time to visit this topic with your own aging parents and make sure they have the proper documents and plans in place.

 

Whether you’re in your 20’s, 30’s or 40’s, it can be easy to put off planning your finances especially in the middle of a pandemic. Most of us are busy, and it’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll have time to work on a goal in the future. Commit to setting aside one hour each week or even each month to have a money date and review your finances. Don’t let yourself reach a milestone birthday (30, 40) and regret not being farther ahead. Follow these money moves now to seize control of your financial future.

The post Money Moves to Make in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Build Good Credit in 10 Painless Steps

If you want to whip your finances into shape, here’s a good New Year’s resolution: improving your credit score.

A lot of New Year’s resolutions fail because they’re so extreme. Think of all the bonkers weight-loss and money-saving goals that surface at the start of every year.

This resolution is different. No extreme measures are required. But there aren’t any shortcuts. Building good credit is a goal you need to commit to 12 months a year.

How to Build Good Credit in 10 Steps

Ready to make 2021 the year you finally prove your creditworthiness? Or are you looking to recover from a 2020 setback? Here’s how to build good credit in 10 steps.

1. Stay on Top of Your Credit Reports

It’s essential to monitor your credit reports, especially if you received a hardship agreement from a lender due to COVID-19. Under the CARES Act rules, lenders are supposed to report your account as paid in full while the agreement is in effect, as long as you weren’t already delinquent. But mistakes happen. Even in normal times, about 1 in 5 credit reports contained inaccurate information.

Through April 2021, you can get one free credit report per week from each bureau. (Typically, you’re only entitled to one free credit report per year from each bureau.) Make sure you access your reports at AnnualCreditReport.com, rather than one of the many websites that offer “free” credit scores but will make you put down your credit card number to sign up for a trial. File a dispute with the bureaus if you find anything you think is inaccurate or any accounts you don’t recognize.

Your credit reports won’t show you your credit score, but you can use a free credit-monitoring service to check your score. (No, checking your own credit doesn’t hurt your score.) Many banks and credit card companies also give you your credit scores for free.

Pro Tip

If the bureaus agree to remove information from your credit reports, expect to wait about 30 days until your reports are updated.

2. Pay Your Bills. On Time. Every Single Month

Yeah, you knew we were going to say this: Paying your bills on time is the No. 1 thing you can do to build good credit. Your payment history determines 35% of your score, more than any other credit factor.

Set whatever bills you can to autopay for at least the minimums to avoid missing payments. You can always pay extra if you can afford it.

A strong payment history takes time to build. If you’ve made late payments, they’ll stay on your credit reports for seven years. The good news is, they do the most damage to your score in the first two years. After that, the impact starts to fade.

3. Establish Credit, Even if You’ve Made Mistakes

You typically need a credit card or loan to build a credit history. (Sorry, but all those on-time rent and utility payments are rarely reported to the credit bureaus, so they won’t help your score.)

But if you have bad credit or you’re a credit newbie, getting approved for a credit card or loan is tough. Look for cards that are specifically marketed to help people start or rebuild credit. Store credit cards, which only let you make purchases at a specific retailer, can also be a good option.

4. Open a Secured Card if You Don’t Qualify for a Regular Card

Opening a secured credit card is one of our favorite ways to build a positive history when you can’t get approved for a regular credit card or loan. You put down a refundable deposit, and that becomes your line of credit.

After about a year of making your payments on time, you’ll typically qualify for an unsecured line of credit. Just make sure the card issuer you choose reports your payments to the credit bureaus. Look for a card with an annual fee of no more than $35. Some secured card options we like (and no, we’re not getting paid to say this):

  • Discover it Secured
  • OpenSky Secured Visa Card
  • Secured Mastercard from Capital One
A woman checks her credit card balance while on the phone.

5. Ask for a Limit Increase. Pretend You Never Got It

Increasing your credit limits helps your score because it decreases your credit utilization ratio. That’s credit score speak for the percentage of credit you’re using. The standard recommendation is to keep this number below 30%, but really, the closer to zero the better.

If you have open credit, ask your current creditors for an increase, rather than applying for new credit. That way, you’ll avoid lowering your length of credit, which could ding your score.

The downside of a higher credit limit: You’ll have more money to spend that isn’t really yours. To get the biggest credit score boost from a limit increase and avoid paying more in interest, make sure you don’t add to your balance.

Pro Tip

Don’t believe the myth that carrying a small credit card balance helps your credit score. Paying off your balance in full each month is best for your score, plus it saves you money on interest.

6. Prioritize Credit Card Debt Over Loans

Tackling credit card debt helps your credit score a lot more than paying down other debts, like a student loan or mortgage. The reason? Your credit utilization ratio is determined exclusively by your lines of credit.

Bonus: Paying off credit card debt first will typically save you money, because credit cards tend to have higher interest rates than other types of debt.

7. Keep Your Old Accounts Active

Provided you aren’t paying ridiculous fees, keep your credit card accounts open once you’ve paid off the balance. Credit scoring methods reward you for having a long credit history.

Make a purchase at least once every three months on the account, as credit card companies often close inactive accounts. Then pay it off in full.

8. Apply for New Credit Selectively

When you apply for credit, it results in a hard inquiry, which usually drops your score by a few points. So avoid applying frequently for new credit cards, as this can signal financial distress.

But if you’re in the market for a mortgage or loan, don’t worry about multiple inquiries. As long as you limit your shopping to a 45-day window, credit bureaus will treat it as a single inquiry, so the impact on your score will be minimal.

FROM THE CREDIT FORUM
Experian Boost
10/25/19 @ 12:14 PM
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Secured credit cards
1/5/21 @ 2:53 PM
Belinda Carmichael
FICO Score: What is it? How is it calculated? How can you raise yours?
11/11/20 @ 5:29 AM
A Penny Pincher's Guide
See more in Credit or ask a money question

9. Still Overwhelmed? A Debt Consolidation Loan Could Help

If you’re struggling with credit card debt, consolidating your credit card debt with a loan could be a good option. In a nutshell, you take out a loan to wipe out your credit card balances.

You’ll get the simplicity of a single payment, plus you’ll typically pay less interest since loan interest rates tend to be lower. (If you can’t get a loan that lowers your interest rate, this probably isn’t a good option.)

By using a loan to pay off your credit cards, you’ll also free up credit and lower your credit utilization ratio.

Many debt consolidation loans require a credit score of about 620. If your score falls below this threshold, work on improving your score for a few months before you apply for one.

10. Keep Your Credit Score in Perspective

All the credit-monitoring tools out there make it easy to obsess about your credit score. While it’s important to build good credit, look at the bigger picture. A few final thoughts:

  • Your credit score isn’t a report card on the state of your finances. It simply measures how risky of a borrower you are. Having an emergency fund, saving for retirement and earning a decent living are all important to your finances — but these are all things that don’t affect your credit score.
  • Lenders look at more than your credit score. Having a low debt-to-income ratio, decent down payment and steady paycheck all increase your odds of approval when you’re making a big purchase, even if your credit score is lackluster.
  • Don’t focus on your score if you can’t pay for necessities. If you’re struggling and you have to choose between paying your credit card vs. paying your rent, keeping food on the table or getting medical care, paying your credit card is always the lower priority. Of course, talk to your creditors if you can’t afford to pay them, as they may have options.

Focus on your overall financial picture, and you’ll probably see your credit score improve, too. Remember, though, that while credit scores matter, you matter more.

Now go crush those goals in 2021 and beyond.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Make Better Financial Decisions

Woman learning how to make better financial decisions

A key financial decision people struggle to make is how to allocate savings for multiple financial goals. Do you save for several goals at the same time or fund them one-by-one in a series of steps? Basically, there are two ways to approach financial goal-setting:

Concurrently: Saving for two or more financial goals at the same time.

Sequentially: Saving for one financial goal at a time in a series of steps.

Each method has its pros and cons. Here’s how to decide which method is best for you.

Sequential goal-setting

Pros

You can focus intensely on one goal at a time and feel a sense of completion when each goal is achieved. It’s also simpler to set up and manage single-goal savings than plans for multiple goals. You only need to set up and manage one account.

Cons

Compound interest is not retroactive. If it takes up to a decade to get around to long-term savings goals (e.g., funding a retirement savings plan), that’s time that interest is not earned.

Concurrent goal-setting

Pros

Compound interest is not delayed on savings for goals that come later in life. The earlier money is set aside, the longer it can grow. Based on the Rule of 72, you can double a sum of money in nine years with an 8 percent average return. The earliest years of savings toward long-term goals are the most powerful ones.

Cons

Funding multiple financial goals is more complex than single-tasking. Income needs to be earmarked separately for each goal and often placed in different accounts. In addition, it will probably take longer to complete any one goal because savings is being placed in multiple locations.

Research findings

Working with Wise Bread to recruit respondents, I conducted a study of financial goal-setting decisions with four colleagues that was recently published in the Journal of Personal Finance. The target audience was young adults with 69 percent of the sample under age 45. Four key financial decisions were explored: financial goals, homeownership, retirement planning, and student loans.

Results indicated that many respondents were sequencing financial priorities, instead of funding them simultaneously, and delaying homeownership and retirement savings. Three-word phrases like “once I have…,", “after I [action],” and “as soon as…,” were noted frequently, indicating a hesitancy to fund certain financial goals until achieving others.

The top three financial goals reported by 1,538 respondents were saving for something, buying something, and reducing debt. About a third (32 percent) of the sample had outstanding student loan balances at the time of data collection and student loan debt had a major impact on respondents’ financial decisions. About three-quarters of the sample said loan debt affected both housing choices and retirement savings.

Actionable steps

Based on the findings from the study mentioned above, here are five ways to make better financial decisions.

1. Consider concurrent financial planning

Rethink the practice of completing financial goals one at a time. Concurrent goal-setting will maximize the awesome power of compound interest and prevent the frequently-reported survey result of having the completion date for one goal determine the start date to save for others.

2. Increase positive financial actions

Do more of anything positive that you’re already doing to better your personal finances. For example, if you’re saving 3 percent of your income in a SEP-IRA (if self-employed) or 401(k) or 403(b) employer retirement savings plan, decide to increase savings to 4 percent or 5 percent.

3. Decrease negative financial habits

Decide to stop (or at least reduce) costly actions that are counterproductive to building financial security. Everyone has their own culprits. Key criteria for consideration are potential cost savings, health impacts, and personal enjoyment.

4. Save something for retirement

Almost 40 percent of the respondents were saving nothing for retirement, which is sobering. The actions that people take (or do not take) today affect their future selves. Any savings is better than no savings and even modest amounts like $100 a month add up over time.

5. Run some financial calculations

Use an online calculator to set financial goals and make plans to achieve them. Planning increases people’s sense of control over their finances and motivation to save. Useful tools are available from FINRA and Practical Money Skills.

What’s the best way to save money for financial goals? It depends. In the end, the most important thing is that you’re taking positive action. Weigh the pros and cons of concurrent and sequential goal-setting strategies and personal preferences, and follow a regular savings strategy that works for you. Every small step matters!

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Source: feeds.killeraces.com

Mint Money Audit 6-Month Check-In: How Did Michelle Allocate Her Windfall?

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 wasn’t 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, I’ve checked in with the 38-year-old real estate developer, to see if any of my advice was helpful and if she’s 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’ve aggressively been contributing to my 401(k) – 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. I just joined an online investment platform, but it was 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.  I hate that I’m still paying loans 16 years after I graduated and it’s a source of frustration [and embarrassment] for me.  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 in…and I 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 brokerage 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. I used it all towards the new vehicle (a 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 paying utilities, miscellaneous maintenance on the house and real estate taxes quarterly. This, too, is helping me save 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 farnoosh@farnoosh.tv (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).

Farnoosh Torabi is America’s 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, she’s 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.

Source: mint.intuit.com