5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation

The post 5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Do you have high hopes that there will be traveling your family’s future, but not quite sure how you can afford it?

You’re not alone. While Americans will spend an average of 10% of their household income on vacationing this year, a full 74% take on debt for their trips. Each of these tips offers you both an easy and effective way to save a substantial amount of money off your next vacation trip. Use them wisely, and you might even be able to squeeze in some extra travel this year.

1. Make use of grocery store prepared food sections

Some people think it’s crazy to not eat at restaurants for all of your vacation meals. Mostly, they want the entire week off from cooking any food.

I don’t blame them (or you) for thinking this. So, what if I told you that you can still avoid cooking all week, and not actually eat out for every single meal?

While vacationing, find your local grocery store with a prepared food section. You can find hot meals for your family – complete with salads and desserts – for much less than what it would cost to eat out. Plus, there’s’ no need to pay a tip.

2. Plan activities around discount times and coupons

You can easily save a bundle on your vacation expenses by planning your activities around available discounts. This doesn’t have to be as limiting as it sounds, it just means you have to be smart about it. For example, you could:

  • Buy a local Entertainment book and use the tourist coupons that come with it.
  • Purchase discounted tickets to local attractions and activities on group buying sites (such as Groupon.com, and LivingSocial.com) by entering the zip code of where you’ll be traveling to.
  • Plan your trip dates around free museum days (I did this on a trip to France, and got in to see the Louvre on its free Sunday of the month).

3. Change the season you travel in

One of the easiest ways you can save on almost all the costs of your next vacation is by simply changing the season that you take it. The time of year you choose makes a huge difference in how much you’ll pay – it’s a simple illustration of supply and demand.

During summertime when kids are out of school and families want to get their vacations in, you’ll pay more. But if you decide to leave for a trip to Disney World one week before schools traditionally let out? Then you’ll not only save yourself tons of waiting time in lines but a lot of money.

In fact, that’s what personally happened to me over five years ago when my husband and I decided last minute to drive to Disney World. It was May, and there were virtually no people around. No lines, no waiting, and hardly a kid in sight.

We asked anyone we could find what was going on, and they said that it would be all-out pandemonium just one week later when their peak season begins (when the majority of kids are out of school). We had unknowingly hit the jackpot, and our cheap hotel bill reinforced that!

Get creative by using winter breaks, trips during the school year, and long weekends in the off-season to save a bundle without even trying.

4. Rethink traditional hotel stays 

Next to transportation costs to get to your destination, hotel costs will make the second biggest dent in your budget. With an average cost of $133.34/night to stay in a hotel, you can see how a 5-night ($666.70) or a 7-night vacation ($933.38) can really add up.

One of the easiest ways to save on vacations is by rethinking traditional hotel stays.

Consider options like these, all of which I’ve done myself:

  • Staying with family or friends
  • Share a hotel room with family or friends
  • Book a rental with local homeowners instead of with hotels (using sites like AirBnB or Vrbo)
  • Use hotel deal sites to snatch up unfilled rooms (such as  Secretflying.com, and TheFlightDeal.com)

5.  Consider group travel

Traveling in groups allows you to pool your money for better rates. My husband’s family, for example, likes to go all-in on a beach house for a long weekend in Galveston. We generally get a 5 to 6-bedroom rental right on the beach, and the cost is just $200-$300 per family for 3-4 nights. If we were to travel on our own, we would never be able to afford such a nice place.

Not only that, but if your group travel entails a road trip, you may be able to carpool with someone to save on gas costs. And if you split up meal prep duties between families like we do? You not only have to cook only once or twice per stay, but you don’t have to eat out in restaurants the whole time.

Another way to secure travel savings in groups is by going after group discounts. Whether booking excursions, airfare, or anything else with a travel agent or by yourself, be sure to ask about possible group discounts.

Don’t forget to shop around

Pricing for hotels, airfare, and things to do can vary greatly. Don’t just visit a company’s website and assume that’s the best price. Check a number of sites — including discounters like Priceline — and look for package deals. You should also consider looking for less-traditional sources for booking trip. Warehouse clubs Costco and Sam’s Club, for example, offer deals on travel (sometimes very good ones).

It’s also important to use any discounts you have coming your way. Are you in AAA? Does someone in the family have a trade association membership that offers special deals? Check and you might unlock a special deal. Use these “work smarter, not harder” strategies when it comes to saving money on your next vacation, and you won’t have vacation debt lingering for months after your return.

–By Amanda Grossman

 

The post 5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

How to Calculate Expected Rate of Return

The basic idea behind investing is finding ways for your money to earn you even more money. Getting your money to do work for you? Yes, please.

But how do you figure out how much your investment is going to make you?

The money that you earn on an investment is known as your return. The rate of return is the pace at which money is earned or lost on an investment.

If you’re going to invest, you may want to consider how much money that investment is likely to earn you. Though it’s not possible to predict the future, having some idea of what to expect can be critical in setting expectations on what’s a good return on investment.

Rate of Return Formula

It helps to start with a base knowledge of a simple rate of return calculation.

A rate of return is typically expressed as a percentage of the investment’s initial cost. For example, an investment that grew from $100 to $110 has a 10% rate of return. Here’s the rate of return formula:

Rate of return = [(Current value − Initial value) ÷ Initial Value ] × 100

In our example, the calculation would be [($110 – $100) ÷ $100] x 100 = 10

So this investment had a 10% rate of return (RoR) during this period.

Expected Rate of Return Formula

Next, consider the expected rate of return. This is the return an investor expects from an investment, given either historical rates of return or probable rates of return under different scenarios. The expected return formula projects potential future returns.

To determine the expected rate of return based on historical data, it can be helpful by starting with calculating the average of the historical return for that investment. More on this calculation below.

This strategy may be useful when there is a robust pool of historical data on the returns of that particular asset type, but remember that past performance is far from a guarantee of future performance.

To calculate an expected return based on probable returns under different scenarios, you’ll need to give each potential return outcome a probability.

For example, you might say that there is a 50% chance the investment will return 20% and a 50% chance that an investment will return 10%. (Note: All the probabilities must add up to 100%.) Next, multiply each scenario’s probability percentage by the investment’s expected return for that period. Then, add those numbers together (Hint: 15% is the answer).

The formula for expected rate of return looks like this:

Expected Return = SUM (Returni x Probabilityi)

(Where “i” indicates each known return and its respective probability in the series.)

How to Calculate Expected Return Using Historical Data

To calculate the expected return using historical data, you’ll want to take an average of each outcome. Here’s an example of what that would look like.

Year

Return

2000 14%
2001 2%
2002 22%
2003 34%
2004 5%
2005 -18%
2006 -21%
2007 29%
2008 6%
2009 16%
2010 22%
2011 1%
2012 -4%
2013 8%
2014 -11%
2015 31%
2016 7%
2017 13%
2018 22%
Average 9%

In this example, the average rate of return is 9%. When using historical data, you may want to consider your pool of data. Are you using all of the data available? Or only data from a select period? If you are only using some data and not others, why?

How to Calculate Expected Return Based on Probable Returns

When using probable rates of return, you’ll need the additional data point of the expected probability of each outcome. Remember, the probability column must add up to 100%. Multiply the return by the probability and add the outcomes together to get the expected rate of return. Here’s an example of how this would look.

Scenario

Return

Probability

Outcome

1 14% 30% 0.042
2 2% 10% 0.0028
3 22% 30% 0.066
4 -18% 10% -0.018
5 -21% 10% 0.00441
100% 0.09721

Using the formula above, in this hypothetical example, the expected rate of return is 9.7%.

Limitations of the Expected Returns Formula

Having historical data can be a good place to start in your journey of understanding how an investment behaves. That said, investors may want to be leery of extrapolating past returns for the future. Historical data is a guide, it’s not necessarily predictive.

Another limitation to the expected returns formula is that it does not take into account the risk involved by investing in a particular asset class. After all, investing can be inherently risky.

And risk and return are often two sides of the same coin. In order to achieve a higher rate of return, you’ll most likely have to take more risk. The risk involved in an investment is not represented by its expected rate of return.

Look at the first example. In this example, which uses historical returns, 9% is the expected rate of return. What that number doesn’t reveal is the risk taken in order to achieve that rate of return. The investment experienced negative returns in the years 2005, 2006, 2012, and 2014. The variability of returns is often called volatility.

Sometimes, investment risks and managing them come with the possibility of losing money. Knowing this, it might be misguided to assume that 9% annual returns were going to show up as positive 9% returns each and every year. To achieve 9% average returns, there must be some risk involved.

Systematic and Unsystematic Risk

All investments are subject to pressures in the market. These pressures, or sources of risk, can come in the form of systematic and unsystematic risk. Systematic risk affects an entire investment type. Within that investment category, it probably can’t be “diversified” away.

Because of systematic risk, you may want to consider building an investment strategy that includes different asset types. For example, a sweeping stock market crash could affect all or most stocks and is, therefore, a systematic risk.

In the stock market, unsystematic risk is risk that’s specific to one company, country, or industry. For example, technology companies will face different risks than healthcare companies and energy companies. This type of risk can be mitigated with portfolio diversification, the process of purchasing different types of investments.

To be a savvy investor, it’s helpful to understand the risks involved with each asset class you’re looking to invest in. One way is to consider the standard deviation of an investment. Standard deviation measures volatility by calculating the dispersion (values’ range) of a dataset relative to its mean. The larger the standard deviation, the larger the range of returns.

Consider two different investments. Investment A has an annual return of 9%, and Investment B has an annual return of 6%. But when you look at the year by year performance, you’ll notice that Investment A experienced significantly more volatility. There are years where returns are much higher and lower than with Investment B.

Year

Investment A

Investment B

2000 14% 11%
2001 2% 12%
2002 22% 12%
2003 34% 3%
2004 5% 8%
2005 -18% -1%
2006 -21% -5%
2007 29% 11%
2008 6% 1%
2009 16% 8%
2010 22% 4%
2011 1% 3%
2012 -4% 0%
2013 8% 7%
2014 -11% -4%
2015 31% 9%
2016 7% 5%
2017 13% 15%
2018 22% 14%
Average 9% 6%
ST. DEV. 16% 6%

On Investment A, the standard deviation is 16%. On Investment B, the standard deviation is 6%. Although Investment A has a higher rate of return, there is more risk. Investment B has a lower rate of return, but there is less risk. Investment B is not nearly as volatile as Investment A.

<Expected Rate of Return vs Required Rate of Return

The required rate of return is a concept in corporate finance. It’s the amount of money, or the proportion of money received back from the money invested, that a project needs to generate in order to be worth it for the investor or company doing it.

This matters for investors because it’s a way of thinking about the relationship between the risk of an investment and the potential profitability or return that can be garnered from it. For the investor, the required rate of return can be applied to stocks.

What is the Dividend-Discount Model?

There are different ways of calculating the required rate of return for stocks.

One is the “dividend-discount model,” which can be used for stocks that pay out high dividends and have steady growth. In this model you get the stock’s value by dividing annual expected dividends by the required rate of return minus the dividend growth rate. By moving around the terms, you can find the required rate of return by dividing the dividend payments by the stock price and adding the growth of dividends.

So, if you have a stock paying $2 in dividends per year and is worth $30 and the dividends are growing at 2% a year, you have a required rate of return of:

$2/30 + .05,
.066 + .05
For a required rate of return of 11.67%

What is the Capital Asset Pricing Model?

The other way of calculating the required rate of return is using a more complex model known as the “capital asset pricing model.”

In this model, the required rate of return is equal to the “risk free rate” plus what’s known as “beta” (the stock’s volatility, or its change in price, compared to the market) which is then multiplied by the market rate of return minus the risk free rate.

For the risk free rate, we can take the yield on 10-year Treasuries, which is about 1% or .01, a beta of 1.5, and the market rate of return of 5% or .05.

So using the formula, the required rate of return would be:

RRR = .01 + 1.5 x (.05 – .01)
RRR = .01 + 1.5 x (.04)
RRR = .01 + .06
RRR = .07, or 7%

What is the Real Rate of Return (RoR)?

Another important formula to know is the “real rate of return.” What makes the real rate of return distinct from other formulas is how it takes into account inflation. This matters because the reason to invest in assets like stocks, bonds, property and so on is to generate money to buy things — and if the cost of things is going up faster than the rate of return on your investment, then the “real” rate of return is actually negative.

This is especially important for low risk investments in things like money market mutual funds or bonds, which are supposed to pay out steadily and provide cash flow, as opposed to stocks which typically are valuable for how the stocks themselves go up in price.

The rate of return is the conversion between the present value of something from its original value converted into a percentage. The formula is simple: It’s the current or present value minus the original value divided by the initial value, times 100. This expresses the rate of return as a percentage.

To understand the real rate of return, we must first understand what the simple or nominal rate of return is. You have to first be able calculate this before moving on to the real rate of return.

Real Rate of Return (RoR) vs Nominal Rate of Return (RoR)

What we calculated above was the “simple” or “nominal rate of return,” a measure of how much the value of something has grown over time compared to when it was purchased.

Another way of thinking of rates of return is on assets that generate interest or yield. A certificate of deposit that pays 3% has a 3% simple or nominal rate of return. But then there’s inflation.

This formula is (1 + the nominal rate)/(1 + inflation rate) -1

So in our example of a 3% yielding CD and a 2% inflation rate, the real rate of return would be

(1+.03)/(1+.02) – 1
.0098
.98% = real rate of return

Real Rate of Return (RoR) vs. Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)

If the real rate of return is a way to compare the value of an investment from when purchased to a given point of time, the compound annual growth rate is a way of measuring how much the investmentment has grown on average per year.

This can be useful because it’s a way of comparing investments over annual timespans. This is useful because typically investments are thought of as being held over a given time period and you want to compare which investment is most appropriate or will generate the biggest gains.

The compound annual growth rate does not tell you how much an investment’s value has grown in a given year, but it does give you a basis of comparison. Another assumption of the compound annual growth rate is that any profits from the investment are re-invested.

The formula for the compound annual growth rate is:

CAGR = (present or final value/starting or initial value)^1/n – 1, where n is the number of years.

So let’s look at a stock which you purchased for $50 in 2008 and has now grown to $200 in 2020. The simple rate of return for this stock would be 300%, which sounds impressive. But let’s look at its compound annual rate of return.

CAGR = (200/50)^1/12 – 1
CAGR = 4^.0833 – 1
CAGR= 12.25%

This 12.25% seems more modest than the 300% rate of return, but it’s useful to compare to other annual rates of returns, like from the market as a whole, from treasury bonds, dividend-stocks and more.

Building an Investment Portfolio

Once you’ve done your research on the risk and return characteristics of the different asset classes, you may feel ready to start investing.

If your goal is to build an investment portfolio, you may want to consider diversifying. Diversification is the process of buying assets that are hopefully non-correlated; the performance of one is not necessarily related to the performance of the other. For example, you could build a portfolio of stocks and bonds, two non-correlated asset classes.

To do this, you can buy stocks and bonds directly, or you can buy them within funds. Funds can provide a way to achieve a diversified portfolio because they bundle many different investments together.

One fund could hold hundreds or even thousands of stocks, bonds, or other investments. For example, an S&P 500 index fund invests in the 500 leading companies in the United States. But the variety of funds doesn’t stop there. There are funds that invest in countries and industries all over the globe.

With SoFi Invest®, you can keep costs such as transaction costs and account fees low in order to build out your portfolio—whether you want to buy stocks or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). If you would like help creating an investment portfolio, SoFi Automated Investing uses a portfolio of ETFs based on your goals, risk tolerance, and projected timeline.

Ready to start investing? Download the SoFi app to get started.


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10 Money Management Tips to Teach Your Kids About Finance

Knowing how to handle finances is one of the most basic and important life skills. When you understand how to handle your money, you can avoid falling into financial problems and risks. So teaching your children about money is a key step in preparing them for adulthood. Teach them values and terms, such as saving, and they will grow to possess good money habits even up to adulthood. Broaden your knowledge of finance and money matters and pass them to your kids by reading up. Read LoanStart blog for financial advice and learn the intricacies of financing and loans and how they can help benefit your current financial situation.

1. Integrate Money Into Daily Life

Get your children involved with money. For example, you can have a young child join you at the grocery store to help with shopping. Ask them to compare prices of similar items and discuss why the items may be different. For older children, you might allow your child to watch or participate when you pay bills. Explain the process to them. Let your child know how much money comes in each month and how much you spend on expenses. Show to them how expenses add up.

Involving your children in household finances will help build their financial knowledge at an early age.

2. Give Your Child an Allowance, But Consider the Frequency and Amount

There are several benefits to giving an allowance. For one thing, when your child has money of their own that they can spend at their discretion, they will be incentivized to learn how to handle it. Once the allowance is gone, your child will have to save up to buy necessary items. You can teach your child to be responsible for money management and living within their means by sticking to the rules. Disperse allowance on a regular schedule, and never extend "credit."

Some financial experts recommend giving out an allowance to be budgeted once a month rather than once a week. This gives the child a longer amount of time on how to manage a given amount of money. Also, the larger the amount of money, the more management skills are to be learned.

3. Model Good Financial Behavior

Your children look up to you, so your decisions with money will set an example. Are you late on your bills? Are you living beyond your means? Get your financial situation in order and be honest with your children. Let them know the reason behind your financial behavior so that you can discuss financial planning and management as a family.

4. Teach Your Children About Choices

Let them know the reason behind your financial behavior and embark on sound financial planning and management as a family.

Make sure your children know that there are more ways to use money beyond just spending it. Teach your child to save, invest, or donate to charity, and explain why these options are worth the effort, even if they do not offer the short-term satisfaction that comes with making a purchase.

5. Provide Extra Income Opportunities

Occasionally, you can offer your child an opportunity to make a small amount of extra income by having them do some chores around the house. This will teach them early on about the value of earning money. You can then help them decide what to do with the extra money they have earned.

6. Teach Your Child How to be a Wise Consumer

Before your child buys something new, discuss with them the alternative ways of spending money to emphasize the value of making choices. Teach them to compare shops and items for prices and quality. Show them how advertisers persuade people to buy their products. Encourage your kids to be savvy and critical of ads and commercials.

7. Teach Your Child a Healthy Attitude Towards Credit 

Teach your child how to handle credit. When you think they are old enough to understand what credit is, allow them to borrow an extra amount of money from you to make a major purchase. Talk to them and negotiate how much amount your child will pay you each week from their weekly allowance, and then collect the money and keep track of the remaining balance each week until the debt is repaid.

8. Involve Your Child in Family Financial Planning

Let your child see how you plan your budget, pay bills, how you shop carefully, and how you plan major expenditures and vacations. Explain to them that there are affordable choices, and allow the kids to participate in the decision-making process. You can set a family goal that everyone can work towards.

Explain to your kids that there are affordable choices, and allow them to participate in the decision-making process.

9. Avoid Impulse Buys

Children are prone to impulse buys when they find something cute or eye-catching. Instead of giving in and buying the item for them, let your child know that they can use their savings to pay for the item. However, encourage your child to wait at least a day before they purchase anything above a given benchmark–for example, 15 dollars. The item will still be there the next day and they will have properly decided with a level head if they still want the item.  

10. Get Them Saving for College

College is an important phase that can affect the future of your child. There’s no time like the present to have your teen saving for college. If they plan on working a summer job you can take a portion of that amount and put it on a college savings account. Your child will feel more responsible since their future is at stake with how much they save.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

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Your Guide to Budgeting for Healthcare Costs

Adults often feel the pressure to act responsibly with everything related to their well-being and their wallets. And nothing says “adulting” quite like budgeting for medical expenses. It’s easy to think that health insurance will cover the majority of medical-related costs and thus can be overlooked in your budget—a copay here, a deductible there… all can be handled without much ado, right?

Not so fast. Medical expenses should be a top budgeting priority, with out-of-pocket costs on the rise and the always-present risk that an unexpected medical expense could put a ding in your spending plans. Consider this: On average, healthcare costs account for about 8 percent of annual household spending, or nearly 7 percent of pretax income, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even if your health insurance kicks in to cover an expense, your budget for healthcare costs still needs to include your premiums (AKA the amount you pay for your health plan).

How do I budget for healthcare costs, you ask? Fair question. This can sound like a lot. To better plan for healthcare costs, consider these five steps:

1. Determine your total healthcare budget

When budgeting for medical expenses, it may be helpful to bucket your healthcare costs into three categories:

  • Fixed Premium: This is the set amount you pay for your health insurance. If you get health insurance through work, this expense may be deducted automatically from your paycheck.
  • Routine: These are your anticipated healthcare costs, even if they fluctuate. Think your copay for your annual checkup or the cost of a regular prescription.
  • Unexpected: These costs can be difficult to predict, like an unplanned trip to the emergency room or an urgent medical procedure.

The easiest way to plan for healthcare costs is to review how much you spent on medical expenses last year.

When it comes to planning for healthcare costs, your medical and spending history is key. “The best place to start in determining how much to budget for healthcare costs is to look at how much you actually spent on healthcare previously,” suggests CPA and personal finance blogger Logan Allec.

You can start by reviewing all of your receipts from your insurance company and healthcare providers and going through your bank and credit card statements to flag any healthcare costs you paid out of pocket over the past year, Allec says. (If you didn’t save all of last year’s receipts, don’t stress. You can contact your insurance and healthcare providers for documentation.) The final number you come up with is a good start for determining your annual fixed and routine healthcare expenses. (Those unexpected curveballs mentioned earlier? See tip 3.)

When budgeting for healthcare costs, Allec also says to anticipate if you’ll have any extra costs this year that you didn’t encounter last year. For example, are you scheduling a surgical procedure or expecting a child? Make sure you understand how much you will have to pay out of pocket by reviewing exactly what your insurance covers annually, and factor that into your plan for healthcare costs.

Make sure your budget for healthcare costs includes any extra expenses you may not have encountered last year.

2. Put your health at the top of your priority list

Once you’ve estimated your annual healthcare costs, consider how you prioritize them against your other essential expenses, says Todd Christensen, blogger and financial educator from Money Fit.

As a guide, Christensen says that healthcare expenses should fall between necessities like your mortgage or rent, taxes, food, transportation and phone. “If you have a hard time paying for prescriptions but make monthly payments to your cell phone provider, then you have prioritized your personal communications over your health,” he adds.

From budgeting for your insurance premiums to preparing for doctor visits and ordering prescriptions, think of paying for healthcare expenses as a “need” instead of a “want,” Christensen says. By adjusting your mindset to give your health the significance it deserves, budgeting for medical expenses will become second nature.

3. Set up an emergency fund

Remember those unexpected healthcare costs that are tricky to plan for? When creating a budget for healthcare costs, Christensen suggests creating an emergency fund. An emergency fund is an account that is set aside to help cover an unexpected financial or medical emergency, such as a procedure or medication that is not fully covered by your insurance plan.

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Start an emergency fund with no minimum balance.

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Experts typically recommend saving at least three to six months of living expenses in your emergency fund so you can pay for unexpected expenses without having to take on debt or dip into savings earmarked for other financial goals. But, according to Christensen, if you’re starting an emergency fund from scratch, it’s best to start small and focus on a goal that’s attainable for you.

“Initially, the amount is less important than the commitment to just do it,” Christensen says. Managing the account, however, does require some discipline. For example, going on a 10-day wellness retreat, however therapeutic the massage sessions may seem, probably does not qualify as an emergency.

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On average, healthcare costs account for about 8 percent of annual household spending, or nearly 7 percent of pretax income.

– The Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Take advantage of health savings accounts

In addition to your emergency fund, there are also special health savings accounts—funded by you or your employer—that can help you cover your health expenses and plan for healthcare costs. Here are three common health savings tools to consider:

  • A Health Savings Account (HSA) can be for you if you’re enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), which is a plan that offers lower premiums in exchange for a higher deductible. An HSA lets you put money away on a pre-tax basis for eligible healthcare expenses, including certain dental work, eyeglasses and prescriptions. Contributions can come from you, your employer, a relative—anyone who wants to fund the account. Also, the funds roll over from year to year with an HSA, which makes it a great long-term tool for budgeting for medical expenses. Note there is an annual limit for how much you can contribute.
  • Whereas an HSA can be funded by you and your employer, a Health Reimbursement Arrangement or a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), is funded solely by your employer, and funds can be spent on predetermined medical expenses. What’s left over in the account can be rolled over to the next year. If you leave the company, however, you can’t take the funds with you.
  • With a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can have a certain amount of money taken from your paycheck, pre-taxed, and deposited into an account that’s used for qualified healthcare expenses. Both you and your employer may contribute to this plan, with a maximum contribution allowed by law. Unlike the accounts above, FSAs don’t generally roll over at the end of each year. Check with your employer for your plan’s specifics.

5. Evaluate health insurance choices carefully

To budget for healthcare costs effectively, consumer finance leader Trae Bodge suggests you take the time to evaluate your health insurance options to find the best plan for you and your family. For each plan, you’ll want to carefully consider the type of plan (are your preferred doctors, hospitals and pharmacies covered?), as well as the cost of premiums, deductibles, copays and prescriptions. Your health history may also be an important factor when considering different coverage options.

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“If family members go to the doctor frequently or have multiple prescriptions, it may be better for your budget to opt for a more expensive plan, given the coverage provided,” Bodge says.

If you’re an entrepreneur or self-employed, you can shop the Health Insurance Marketplace at healthcare.gov. But also look at comparable plans directly through insurance providers to better budget for healthcare costs, Bodge says. You might be able to save by choosing a smaller insurance company over a larger one or by signing up directly with the provider, Bodge adds.

Plan for healthcare costs today

When it comes to budgeting for medical expenses, a little planning today can go a long way toward providing for a more financially secure tomorrow. With a healthcare budget firmly in place, you’ll be better empowered to make decisions that are good for your health—and your wallet.

The post Your Guide to Budgeting for Healthcare Costs appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Here’s How to Visit National Parks Without Spending a Fortune

When the pandemic struck last year and dashed my travel plans for Germany and Austria, I instead planned a different adventure: Acadia National Park in Maine. Acadia National Park is just one of the National Park System’s 62 official national parks, but the federal agency also oversees national battlefields, national monuments, national reserves and more. […]

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

Property Spotlight of the Day-Crescent Park

The Best Apartment Deals In DC Right Now | Cheap DC Apartments

We’re all about scoring a good deal here at Apartminty.  While we love perusing the top-of-the-line luxury apartments in DC, we also understand, sometimes an affordable rent is the better option. Either way, instead of you searching for Washington, DC apartments on Craigslist and property management company listing sites, we are delivering our choice of the best apartments to rent in DC right now.  Here’s our pick for the best Washington, DC apartment in Columbia Heights for rent today. Want more information on moving to DC? Check out Apartminty’s  Ultimate Guide to Moving to Washington, DC.

window.addEventListener(‘LPLeadboxesReady’,function(){LPLeadboxes.addDelayedLeadbox(‘147bc2c73f72a2:17c8039fb746dc’,{delay:’30s’,views:0,dontShowFor:’0d’});});

 CRESCENT PARK

Crescent Park Apartments 

2 Elmira Street SE
Washington, DC 20032

1 Bedroom/1 Bath
$1115/month
Unit #: 3
710 Sq Ft
Available Now

Why it’s a great deal:
If you are looking for a true rental deal, Crescent Park is a dream.  Located right off of South Capitol Street, these spacious apartments come equipped with hardwood floors, updated kitchens, and free basic cable. With on-site maintenance and management teams, on-site laundry facilities, and the ability to pay your rent online! Looking for something a little different? Check out Apartminty’s guide How to Find an Apartment in DC.

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Read Property Spotlight of the Day-Crescent Park on Apartminty.

Source: blog.apartminty.com

How to Use a Grocery Price Book to Get the Best Deals

The post How to Use a Grocery Price Book to Get the Best Deals appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to find out when those items you need will be on sale?  Believe it or not, stores usually cycle sales on schedules.  By learning how your store does this, you can always get the best deals and know when to stock up, and when to pass on those deals.  The secret is learning how to use a pricebook.

A price book is also called a grocery price book.  And, it is just what it sounds like – a book which tracks the prices of the items you need at the stores where you shop.

A Price Book is a list of the products you purchase and the prices you pay
to watch for sales trends and cycles.

It will take time to create yours, but once you have it set up, it is easy to maintain and will help you know when those prices are at their lowest, allowing you to stock up and save as much as possible.

 

How Do I Make a Grocery Pricebook?

You want to make sure that what you use is simple enough that you can maintain it.  If you are a techy person, you might want to use something on your smartphone.  If you are a paper list maker, then you might want to go with an easier method like a spiral notebook or binder with inserts.  You can even create a spreadsheet on your computer.   The way you track does not matter.  What matters is that you just do it.

You will want to keep the list organized, however, by breaking it down by the department or possibly even product.  For instance, you will want one sheet for your dairy items, one for meat, one for produce, one for breakfast foods, etc.  That way, when you need to find the prices (and update it), you can easily find it.

 

What Do You Include in the Book?

No matter which method used to create your book, you will want to make sure to keep track of the products you purchase.  These will include:

  • Date
  • Store
  • Product/Brand
  • Size (oz, product count, etc)
  • Price
  • Per unit price

You can create your own form, can print one out below.  Just click the image to learn how you can get one that you can use.

How Do I Create My Price Book?

The simplest thing to do is to start keeping your receipts.  Once you shop, write down the information based on what you purchased.  It takes a little work up front to get started, but eventually, the book will be easy to maintain and you’ll get the hang of it.

To calculate your per unit prices, you will need to make sure you know the product size.  That might mean extra notes when you shop or updating the price book as you put your groceries away.  To determine a per unit price, take the price and divide that by the size.  For example, if you are looking at diapers you would calculate the price per diaper as follows:

$17.49 / 84  = $0.20 per diaper

You can simplify this even more by updating a price book while you shop.  Most stores have the per unit price listed right on the shelf for you.  That makes it simpler for you as you can just write down the price in your book.

Do I Ever Change the Price?

Yes!  That is the reason a Price Book works!  As you shop, you might have a price for an item listed in your booklet, but you find it on sale for less.  You will want to update that price in your book as that means there was a sale.

When you see it on sale again the next time, you might start to learn the sales cycle, such as every six weeks or every 12 weeks.  Doing this is how you learn when to shop for the items you need.

How Do I Make the This Work for Me?

Before you shop, you will want to consult your pricebook to see if the items on sale are the lowest price or if you know you can get a better deal.  If your Price Book shows a lower price, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy that product.  It just means only purchase whatever amount you need to get by until the item goes on sale again at the lower price.

On the flip side of this, if you find that the price in the weekly ad is lower than what you show in your price book, it might mean that you not only need to update your price book pricing, but it also will let you know that it is a good time to stock up at this low price!

Does the Book Do More Than Share Sales Cycles?

It sure does!  If you find a great coupon, you will know in advance about what you will pay at the store.  Your price book helps you determine which store you want to shop at so you can use the coupon for the best deal.

A price book can also help with your budget.  If you find that you’ve got “too much month and not enough money” left until your next payday, you can make your list and know ahead of time what you can expect to pay at checkout.  This way, there are no surprises, and you can adjust your shopping list before you shop!

grocery pricebook

The post How to Use a Grocery Price Book to Get the Best Deals appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

4 Tips for Handling Finances After a Pay Cut

woman sitting on the floor doing work on her computer

Millions of Americans faced pay cuts as the coronavirus pandemic affected industries. While many workers were laid off, some were furloughed, and others kept their jobs but at lower salaries as businesses struggled to stay afloat.

Some workers are reexamining their budgets to cut some of their expenses until they get another job or their employer restores pay cuts. Taking a pay cut means facing the reality of no longer living the same financial life.

Americans often aren’t so good at saving for emergencies such as a car repair or sudden illness, or for their retirement. A recent survey found that 59% of U.S. residents say they live paycheck to paycheck.

Less than 40% of working adults think their retirement savings are on track, and 25% have no retirement savings or pension at all, according to the latest Federal Reserve Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households.

Another alarming fact is that 4 in 10 adults have said that if they had an emergency and had to pay a bill of $400, they would have to borrow the money or sell an item they own. And that is in so-called normal times. Here are four strategies to handle finances after a pay cut.

1. Update Your Budget

There are several ways to deal with the changes to your budget after a change to your salary. Create a budget if you do not already have one. List all your expenses for weekly purchases, from groceries to gasoline and parking fees. Add monthly bills, including rent or mortgage, car loan, cable, cellphone, utility bills, credit cards, student loans, and any other debt such as personal loans.

Update your budget and examine all your expenses to see which ones you can lower or eliminate, even temporarily, for the next six months. Add your income and include part-time jobs, tax refunds, bonuses, and any child support, alimony, or help from parents. This will help you determine how much money you can spend for necessities, expenses, entertainment, and other items such as doctor visits.

There are several free apps that can help you manage your debt easily and update it as your financial circumstances change. To track your spending, decide if you want to track it daily, weekly, or biweekly. You might try different time periods before you decide on one. Some people prefer to keep up with their spending on old-fashioned pen and paper.

SoFi Relay.

After you track your spending for two or three months, you will see a pattern emerge of where most of your money goes. You can also look at older bank and credit card statements to see what you were spending money on last year compared to this year. This will help determine if you had one-time expenses such as medical bills, airplane tickets, hotel stays, wedding gifts, or a vacation. You might be surprised at what you’re spending your money on. For instance, you might be spending a lot of money on entertainment or buying gifts.

In addition to a budget, create a financial plan for both short- and long-term goals. A plan will help you determine when you can pay off any loans and how much you want to save, say, for a down payment on a house.

2. Cut Expenses

One place many consumers can cut costs is from entertainment, such as their cable bill or streaming services. These can really add up. Canceling all or some of these services can improve your cash flow, which is how much money you have left over at the end of the month. Another place where you can slash expenses is from your food budget. Consider using digital coupons, shopping at warehouse clubs, or going out to eat for lunch instead of dinner.

Your expenses include debt such as credit cards, student loans, and personal loans. Paying more than the minimum balance, refinancing to a lower interest rate. and making extra payments can help you pay down the principal amount, or the original amount that you borrowed, sooner.

Consider refinancing your student loans by checking out both fixed and variable rates. Interest rates are at historic lows. You might be able to pay down your credit card bills faster by taking out a personal loan; those interest rates are often lower. And if that’s the case, the debt could be paid sooner.

Automating the payment of bills can make your life easier. This will also help you avoid paying late fees. You can either have your bills paid automatically through your checking account or set yourself a reminder on your calendar if you have some bills such as utilities that are a different amount each month.

You can also automate your savings. You can have money taken out of your checking or savings account each month and have it automatically invested into your workplace 401(k) plan or an individual retirement account.

Snip, Snip, Snip

When your salary has been slashed, there are several ways you can save money immediately and long term.

Call your mortgage, auto loan, utilities, credit card, and student loan companies to see if you can defer payments for several months. Skipping a few payments can help you get back on your feet sooner. If the company cannot provide this option, see if the interest rate can be lowered on, say, credit cards.

Check with your local nonprofit organizations. Many provide food or partial payments for utility bills. Your local food bank is a good place to start; this can help you lower your monthly grocery bill.

Look online to see if stores are offering deals. Stock up on staples such as beans, rice, and pasta if they are on sale.

If you are still short of money, you might consider talking to family members and friends about obtaining a short-term loan or working on a small project to earn some extra money.

cash management account that keeps track of weekly spending—which then allows creation of a budget based on habits.

There are no account fees for SoFi Money® and you can earn cash-back rewards on spending. And SoFi members can gain financial advice—at no cost.

Learn more about SoFi Money® today.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer to sell, solicitation to buy or a pre-qualification of any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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The post 4 Tips for Handling Finances After a Pay Cut appeared first on SoFi.

Source: sofi.com

Go Green: 5 Tips for Saving Electricity

After a few weeks of talking about ways to go green, I thought an episode on how to save electricity would be a great way to finish out this green series. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning ways to save water, to cut down on the amount of trash you create in your kitchen as well as some environmentally-friendly laundry tips.

If you’ve ever Googled “How to save electricity,” you’ve found out the hard way that there are hundreds of tips out there. Some of these tips are easy to implement, but some of the ways to save electricity that are suggested online are tips like, “Use candles instead of turning on lights.” While this will certainly save electricity, it’s not incredibly practical. That’s why I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite, easy-to-do tips to help you save electricity.

Tip #1: Save electricity by turning off lights

If your parents were like mine, you probably still have a voice rattling around your head saying, “Turn off the lights!” whenever you exit a room. Our parents had it right, because there’s absolutely no reason to keep a light on in a room you are not in. If you can commit to simply turning off the lights in every room when you leave it, you can save electricity immediately.

Whether you are going to return to the room in 10 minutes or 10 seconds, there’s no reason to have the light on while you’re not in the room.

Tip #2: Save electricity by turning off (and disconnecting!) electronics

Just like there’s no use in keeping lights on while you’re not in a room, there’s no use in keeping electronics on while you’re not using them. When you leave for the day, make sure all your electronics are off. This includes your TV, sound system, computer, and any other electronic gadgets you may have around your home.

Did you know that electronics that are plugged in, and not even turned on, can account for 5-10% of electricity used in a home?

Taking it one step further, did you know that electronics that are plugged in, and not even turned on, can account for 5-10% of electricity used in a home? Computers, printers, coffee makers, and even phone cords that are plugged in can be energy vampires, sucking electricity (and your hard-earned money) when they aren’t in use. So you may want to invest in a power cord that you can plug most electronic devices into. That way, you can simply unplug off just one switch when you leave for the day (instead of walking around unplugging things throughout your home). Yes, it might take 2 more seconds of your time to turn the power cord on than simply turn the electronic device on, but it can make a big impact in your electricity bill.

Tip #3: Save electricity by taking care of your air conditioner

If you live in an area of the world where you use your air conditioner a lot, this can play a major part in your energy consumption. If you want to save electricity, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your air conditioner is running as efficiently as possible.

First, have your air conditioning unit serviced annually. Most companies charge a nominal fee to have this service completed. It involves cleaning out the coils and checking for any small repairs that are making your unit work overtime. Next, make sure you change your air filters monthly. These filters catch a lot of dust and dirt, which starts to clog them. The more clogged the filters, the harder your air conditioning unit has to work to get the air to pass through the filter. If your filters are any color other than white, making a slight whistling sound, or worse yet, are bent because they are being sucked into the vent, change them immediately. This change alone will save a ton of wasted electricity from being used to cool your home.

Tip #4: Save electricity by making easy swaps

A couple of quick swaps in your house can help you save electricity. The first you may want to consider is using ceiling or box fans instead of running your air conditioner as much. Oftentimes, just circulating the air in a room will help the room feel cooler. Instead of running the massive cooling unit outside your home, a fan uses about the same amount of electricity as a light bulb. For every degree you can raise your air conditioner, you save about 5% of the energy being used. I live in the desert of Arizona and my fellow dessert-dwellers are very familiar with this technique. It costs an arm and a leg to cool a house in Arizona to 70 degrees, so most people set their thermostats between 77 and 81 degrees and run the fans to do the rest. It keeps us comfortable, both with the feeling inside our house as well as when we see our electric bills!

Another easy change is to switch incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent, otherwise known as CFL, light bulbs. CFL bulbs use just 25% of the energy of regular light bulbs, so when you combine that with always shutting them off, you can dramatically save on your electricity consumption. Just remember that CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, so they need to be disposed of properly. Check with your local government agency to see how they require these bulbs to be disposed of.

Tip #5: Save electricity by keeping nature outside

The final tip on how to save electricity is to make sure you don’t have any drafts coming into your home. If you hold a feather around the edges of your windows and doors, the feather should be perfectly still. If it wavers, that means outside air is getting into your home. The more outside air that gets into your house, the more your air conditioner or heater has to run. Seal up your windows and doors with weather stripping, which is available at your local hardware store and is relatively easy to apply.

Also, during the summertime, keep the sunshine out of your house using room darkening blinds and curtains. By keeping the sun out, especially from south and west facing windows, you will keep your house from heating up, which will do a big part in helping to save electricity.

These are just a few tips to save electricity to get you started. 

Source: quickanddirtytips.com