Can Debt Be Used to Build Wealth? Let’s Weigh In

Image result for suitcase cash

Generally, people think of debt as something to avoid. Debt usually means “bad” and no debt means you are better off financially. So the idea of using debt to build wealth can seem a bit dubious. Can you really build wealth using debt?

In order to answer this question, we first need to know that there are two kinds of debt. There is good debt and bad debt. And though the thought of debt being “good” seems counter-intuitive, the fact remains that some debt is actually good.

Good debt is a debt that will increase your finances over time. So something like a small business loan is good debt because you use the money you borrowed to build up your business, thus, bulking up your finances in the long run. Good debt also has a smaller interest. So while you are expanding your business with your small business loan, you aren’t paying an exorbitant amount in interests. This type of debt also allows you ample time to pay back your debt.

Bad debt is the exact opposite. This kind of debt has astonishingly high-interest rates and usually involves some form of collateral. There is also a very short turnaround time for you to pay your debt, plus interest, back. Some examples of bad debt are credit card debts, car title loans, and payday loans. A loan of $100 will have you paying back nearly the same amount in interests alone. Bad debt will sink you financially faster than a boat riddled with holes.

So now that you know the two types of debt, you can probably guess which one can be used to build wealth. The question now is “how”.

A good way is the example stated above. Use debt to expand your business. If you do not have a business, use debt to invest. It could be in property or in various investment funds. Whatever you decide to invest in, it is important to know your risk tolerance and how much you are willing to invest.

The principle of leverage can help you out as well. Say for example you are investing 100 dollars of your own with an expected return rate of 10%. This will earn you a return of $10. If you borrowed money with an interest rate of less than 10%, you can add to your initial $100 investment and still earn from it despite having to pay off the debt you used to invest. You can diversify your financial portfolio using this strategy as well; borrow to invest in different institutions and different kinds of investments.

There are a few to consider when using debt to invest. Think of your tolerance for debt. Can you realistically pay off your monthly payments? Can you pay off that debt within the time frame or do you need more time? Consider your cash flow as well. You need to make sure that you have enough income to pay off your debt.

So the answer to the question can debt be used to build wealth is yes, you can. You just need to choose the right kind of debt, invest in the right things, and keep in mind your debt tolerance.

This article was originally published by Uncapped Mortgage

Post to Twitter

10 Ways to Save on Insurance

Having insurance is great when the universe decides it’s time to give you a major (or even minor) problem. But when you can get a policy for practically anything, it’s easy to spend more on protecting your life than living it. Don’t worry, though. We can help you keep these expenses under control while still getting the coverage that you need.

Here are ten ways to be protected for less:

1. Assess Your Needs

Rather than buying coverage simply because you think you should, it’s important to consider your specific situation. Your life today and your future plans should dictate what insurance policies you need and how much coverage is appropriate.

Although there are lots of factors to consider for each type of insurance, you should think about the following to determine your needs:

  • Your assets: More assets (cash, investments, businesses, property, etc.) may mean more insurance
  • Your family: Having dependents typically requires more coverage
  • Your health: Poor health could necessitate a more robust medical policy or more life insurance

2. Shop Around

Before committing to any policy, get pricing from multiple companies. You may be surprised at how much variation you see. And remember — don’t just set it and forget it. It pays to do this before every policy renewal.

3. Bundle Policies

As you get quotes for coverage, ask each company for a bundle price on the types of insurance that you need. You could score big savings and simplify your bill paying process.

4. Get a Discount by Association

Sure, you can likely get a deal on health, life, and disability insurance through your employer. But did you know that you may be eligible for discounted group rates on home and auto policies, too? Check with your HR department!

5. Raise the Deductible

Increasing your policy’s deductible could be an easy way to save a few bucks each month. Be sure, however, that you can cover the higher deductible if you ever need to make a claim.

6. Keep Your Credit Report Clean

Unless you live in CA, HI, or MA, poor credit history could cost you. Insurers may assign you an insurance score (similar to a credit score), with lower scores resulting in higher premiums. They believe, right or wrong, that a low score indicates irresponsibility and therefore more risk.

7. Save on Car Insurance

If you want to own a car in 48 out of 50 states, you need car insurance. The good news is that you can defray the expense with tons of different discounts. You may be able to save cash for being a student, taking a defensive driving course, being a member of AAA, driving a car with low miles, and more. Additionally, if your car is older and paid off, you may not need as much insurance. Remember: carry sufficient liability coverage to protect your assets.

Tip: Try this calculator to see how much car insurance you may need.

8. Save on Homeowners/Renters Insurance

If you have a mortgage, you’re probably required to have homeowner’s insurance. To make this expense more budget-friendly, ask your insurer if they offer price breaks for having smoke detectors, a home security system, modern plumbing and electrical systems, etc. Many of the same discounts are available to renters, too.

Bonus read: Check out this article on determining how much coverage you could need.

Tip: Use this guide to take an inventory of your belongings and determine the value of your stuff, which gets factored into your insurance requirements.

9. Save on Life Insurance

If you have a family to protect or want to leave loved ones a little something when you’re gone, you may want to purchase life insurance. There are a few different types, each with their own pros and cons, but generally, the most affordable type is term life insurance. Term life insurance will pay your beneficiaries a specified amount if you die within a certain timeframe (usually 10-30 years). There are a number of ways to save on life insurance such as paying the entire year’s worth of premiums upfront or getting a volume discount (aka getting more insurance for less money!).

Tip: Try this calculator to see how much life insurance you may need.

10. Save on Health Insurance

It’s no secret — medical care is crazy expensive. Adequate health insurance can save your wallet from a beating if you become seriously ill or injured.  If you’re in good health, don’t go to the doctor frequently, and have a cash reserve, consider saving money on your monthly premiums by choosing a plan with a high-deductible. You’ll pay the full tab if you go to urgent care with the flu or a sprained ankle, but you’ll (hopefully) pay less overall each year due to premium savings. You can also save money by using in-network providers and practicing healthy habits — like eating right, getting those steps in, and going easy at happy hour.

Tip: A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a perfect partner to a high-deductible medical plan. Check out how an HSA can help lower your tax liability, set money aside for medical expenses, and save for retirement here. To get started, click here.

Final Thoughts

Insurance can be a significant line item on your budget, but there are many ways to minimize the expense. While this article isn’t an exhaustive list of ways to save, it gives you a good start to being covered affordably.

Tell Charlie: What’s your favorite way to save on insurance?

Please note: We don’t have an affiliation with or personally endorse any of the services linked to in this post. We’re just trying to give you some ideas.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

Post to Twitter

The Cost of Love: Differences in Dating Expenses Between Men and Women

The game of love can cost a pretty penny. Take the popular reality TV series The Bachelor. Female contestants are expected to bring their own wardrobe for the entire show. (That’s seven whole weeks!) This includes the entire kit and caboodle, from stiletto heels and evening gowns to hair products, accessories, and makeup to city cruising and hiking outfits. The cost for these single ladies? Anywhere from $1,800 to a whopping $8,000. Looking good on the prowl ain’t cheap!

Getting the bachelor to ask you, “Will you accept this rose?” could add up quickly.

Male contestants on The Bachelorette, however, spend a lot less on appearances. How much do they spend to be on the show? Anywhere from $500 to $3,500 in an attempt to woo the bachelorette.

When it comes to the real world, the costs of courtship are lower, but there’s still a discrepancy in how much men and women spend in their journeys for love.

The Costs of Dating
According to Match.com’s 7th annual Singles in America survey, men spent an average of $1,855 per year on dating, whereas women spent $1,423, per Mental Floss. This includes throwing down dough on eating out, entertainment, clothes and personal grooming, and on dating apps. Singles are spending roughly $80 per date and going on about 20 dates each year.

As you might’ve guessed, it costs more to date in major cities: $2,069 in the Big Apple, $1,816 in Chicago, and $1,788 in Washington, D.C. Despite the major costs related with courting, talking about cash in a relationship is tricky. Here are our tips for approaching the subject:

Don’t Assume 
Whether it’s what we observe from our parents, or what’s been culturally instilled in us from an early age, we might bear assumptions that no longer ring true in our modern age.

For example, who takes the bill at the end of a date? Per the Singles in America Survey, nearly half of men believe in footing the bill, while only 36 percent of women think that men still should. What’s more, when it comes to going splitsies, 71 percent of males enjoyed it when a woman offered to pay, and 78 percent of women said they had offered. When my partner and I first started dating, we went Dutch from the get-go. It wasn’t about gender roles, it was just what felt right for our dynamic.

You also don’t want to assume you know what the true costs of courtship entail. A good friend of mine was getting annoyed that his girlfriend wasn’t paying her fair share. He was paying for most of the meals and movie tickets. Plus, he had to fork over gas money to drive out to see her. When he brought this up to her, she pointed out that she had made up for it by buying pricey lingerie. This was a “hidden” cost that my friend hadn’t even considered. If you’re not sure what your date is thinking, don’t be afraid to ask. That can help prevent conflict and bouts of resentment.

Start Simple 
You probably don’t want to talk about credit scores, debt loads, and tax brackets on the first date — unless you want to scare them off. As the tried-and-true adage goes: Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). In the early days of courtship, start with the easy stuff. There’s no need to pry when all that’s required is deciding who will be paying for dinner.

In the early days of the relationship, it might be best to observe instead of outright asking. You can learn a lot about someone’s approach to money in the spending decisions they make and their lifestyle choices. Are they are a saver or a spender? Do they generally seem optimistic about their finances, or can you sense glimmers of pessimism? Piecing together these hints can help you figure out whether they have a healthy relationship with money.

Handle With Care 
Chatting about finances in a romantic partnership is no easy feat. As it can be a heavy and sensitive topic, you’ll want to approach it with finesse. I like to bring up light topics when it comes to money, such as finding a bargain at my favorite online store. If I feel like talking about my finances, I’ll do so in a way that could lead to a deeper discussion. If they’re not feeling it, don’t pressure them to share.

And whatever you do, don’t judge. People might feel shame about not earning enough, or about their debt situation. (Yes, debt shame is a very real thing.) If you’re going to approach a tricky subject, come from a place of empathy and understanding.

Time the Ask 
Getting financially naked is essential to a healthy relationship. Once you get more serious, you’ll need to pull back the hood and reveal the state of your finances. This includes your credit card debt, net worth, how much you earn, as well as your hopes, fears, and concerns about money.

Yes, it’s a lot. But the last thing you want in your relationship is financial infidelity, or keeping a money secret from your S.O. If you don’t know where your partner stands, you won’t be able to build a life together based on shared values. Talking about money is oftentimes difficult and scary. But doing so will help you build trust.

Know There Will Be Differences

We come in with our own mindsets, behaviors, and habits around money. If you and your partner have different ways of handling money, you’ll need to communicate boundaries, expectations, and work on shared goals.

My partner and I have pretty different ways on how we treat our money. I am super cautious, and need a lot tucked away for emergencies to feel safe. My partner feels comfortable having a smaller cushion for his rainy day fund. My threshold for what makes me feel safe isn’t the same for him. He doesn’t own a credit card, and pays for everything upfront. While I pay off my credit card balance in full each month, I love racking up those credit card points!

Pencil in Money Dates 
Most of my coupled money nerd pals carve out time to go on money dates with their significant others. It’s a perfect time to discuss progress on shared money goals, share wins, and hash out any issues. You can make it fun. Get out of the house, and chat over coffee or ice cream. As you most likely each lead busy lives, you can squeeze in a time to chat while driving to dinner once a week.

Dating is expensive, and talking about money is hard. But unless you swear to a life of singlehood, these are costs and challenges you’ll need to take into account. With a bit of know-how, planning and tact, you can incorporate finances into dating and relationships like a pro.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

Post to Twitter

8 Ways to Stop Impulse Shopping

Raise your hand if you’ve gone into Target just to buy a pack of toilet paper and left with a full basket of stuff.

Hey, we’ve all been there. It’s fine to make light of it all (I mean it does make for some great Target run memes, amiright?) but when it comes time to look at your bank account, it’s probably not going to be fun.

Impulse shopping happens to the best of people, but it can lead to blowing your budget, missing financial goals, and even going into debt. Worst of all, you may regret purchases, leading to those pesky emotions known as shame and guilt.

Before you go hiding under a rock, vowing never to come out again — please don’t, the world needs your awesomeness — keep reading to find out what you can do to curb impulse shopping.

Forgive Yourself

We all make mistakes. It’s not helpful to dwell on them and beat ourselves up on the past.

The more negative self-talk you engage in, the more you’re going to shop impulsively again. If you feel like you can’t escape the wrath of the Target run, you’ll end up blindly going into the store and tossing unnecessary items into your cart.

If you end up overspending, take some time to tell yourself it was a mistake and that you can become better with your money. One step at a time.

Notice Your Urges

… Shopping urges that is.

When you feel the need to shop — and it’s not because you ran out of toilet paper — take note. You can even go as far as marking it down in your note-taking app or a journal. The idea is to draw attention to it so that you can stop and think about why you feel the need to shop.

In most cases, the reasons are emotional. Maybe you’re going through a stressful time and want to do some retail therapy. Or you’re feeling a bit insecure at your new job and want to impress your coworkers. It could even be as simple as you celebrating your birthday, leading you to buy things you weren’t planning on purchasing.

 

Avoid Temptation

  • Here are some simple tricks to avoid the urge to buy things in store or online you don’t need: Block websites of your favorite retailers
  • If you need to purchase something, see if they have a pickup service, so you’re less tempted to be swayed by shiny displays
  • Don’t go to the mall
  • Give yourself a time limit when you do need to buy something, like 5 days to see if you actually want it
  • Take a different route to work if there are any stores you’ll see that may lead you to impulsively shop
  • Have hours where you’re not allowed to browse online (like past midnight, when you might not be thinking straight…)

Stick to a List

A lot of people end up making impulse purchase because they don’t have a plan. Of course, sticking to a list isn’t going to be 100 percent but at least it can help deter you by having something you can reference.

Sticking to a list will require you do some advance planning on your part. For example, if you go grocery shopping, check your pantry to see what you items you need. Or if you’re buying new clothes, write down the types of styles, color and clothing item before you go try stuff on.

Try a 30-Day Challenge

Gamifying your finances can be a fun way to work towards a better financial future. Call it a “shopping ban,” “spending fast,” or something more fun. Whatever you do, see if you can challenge yourself to stop impulse purchases for 30 days.

If you do, make sure you get as specific as possible. Maybe you’ll only purchase necessities, but nothing outside of groceries, bills, etc.. Or you want to stop clothes shopping for the next 30 days. Consider making some rules or guidelines on what you can and can’t purchase during the challenge.

When the challenge is over, see how you feel. What did you learn about yourself??

Have an Accountability Partner

Sometimes having an outside force can help you to stick to your goals. If you have a friend who you can chat all things money with and trust, challenge each other to stop impulse purchases.

This plan will have a higher chance of success if you make specific goals. Think about keeping each other accountable throughout a 30-day challenge (as mentioned above) or even having a weekly chat to talk about your thoughts around spending money.

The win-win here is that you can work towards a better financial future and help a friend out at the same time!

Bring Cash

You can’t spend money you don’t have, right? If you need to head into a store to make a purchase, bring only the cash you need and that’s it. That way you’re not tempted to buy anymore because you won’t be able to purchase it.

If you hate the thought of carrying around cash, consider using a prepaid debit or credit card so you can still limit the amount you spend.

Understand Your Why

Sounds super cheesy, but you can’t maintain a habit without understanding why you’re doing it in the first place. Sure, it’s a good idea to stop impulse shopping, but why is it important to you specifically? Do you want to save more money so you can replace your old laptop? Or do you have a bunch of credit card debt you want gone by the end of the month?

Giving a reason for changing your behavior will help keep you motivated during the tough times. And when you get through to the other side, you’ll be thankful you took the time to understand the why behind your finances.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

Post to Twitter

What Entrepreneurs Can Teach Us About Getting Out of Debt

Credit card debt surpassed $1 trillion in 2017, according to a report by the Federal Reserve. Getting out of this kind of debt can be challenging, but there is one group that can help show you a way out; entrepreneurs. They understand that debt involves having more liabilities than assets according to Forbes. In general terms, debt can be defined as owing more than you own. Owing something to someone else can be beneficial to your productivity, prosperity and value creation. When you cannot use debt for these benefits, then debt becomes a burden not an opportunity.

Learning to negotiate your way out of debt

When even the smartest entrepreneurs get into debt because a certain product did not sell well or because of a downturn, they often find ways to negotiate better rates and monthly payments with their lenders or creditors. Creditors do not refuse to negotiate because if the business fails, the creditors will not get their money. Similarly, your creditors want you to continue paying your debts because if you stop paying, it may force them to litigate.

Most creditors prefer to receive smaller amounts rather than to receive nothing at all. This process of negotiation may be brought before a third neutral party called an arbitrator to resolve any debt repayment dispute. This is often done to avoid spending time and money going to court to resolve the dispute. During time period of debt repayment after the debt negotiation process, your cash flow may stabilize.

Cash flow can be irregular

An illusion of invincibility may envelope you when cash inflows start exceeding outflows, but that quickly dissipate when irregular cash flow unexpectedly sets in. Some people turn to more credit cards when this happens, but credit cards may only make you dig yourself deeper into debt.Entrepreneurs ensure that they do not sell anything at a loss when they are experiencing more cash inflows than outflows. Another way entrepreneurs keep the cash flow regular is by offering no discounts and adding more value by creating bundles of products or services. So maintain your former budget, but do not add any more expenses. You will also need to prioritize your debt.

Tackle loans with large interest rates first

Entrepreneurs prioritize debts that affect their business relationships and those with large interest rates and penalties before other loans.  Penalties include having to lose an asset which you placed as collateral for a loan from a lender. So you can start repaying the loan that has either your house or your car as collateral because losing those properties can plunge you deeper into debt.

Debts can affect your relationships if you borrowed the money from relatives, friends or co-workers or when the debt is putting a strain on your marriage. Failing to pay the debt on time can actually end these relationships making you more vulnerable the next time you get into debt. For entrepreneurs, a supplier or vendor may refuse to deliver certain products to a business because of a debt that wasn’t paid.

Generally, you need to have a debt repayment plan, which involves drawing up a budget and sticking to it with the discipline of an entrepreneur. The changes you make may be hard on you and your family but that sacrifice will lead to a more secure future.

Chrissy Helders

Post to Twitter

How to Save Money Each Month While Paying Off Debt

You have oodles of debt that you want gone. But you also have other important financial goals, like saving money, that need your attention. These competing priorities can make you feel like you’re trapped in a chicken or the egg conundrum. If you pay down your credit card debt, you’ll have more wiggle room in your budget and can save that extra cash. But, if you save more money, you won’t have to whip out your credit card next time an unplanned expense pops up. So do you pay off debt or save? The short answer is: porque no los dos?

Here’s your plan of attack to slay debt and pad your bank account:

Divide and Conquer

To work on both goals simultaneously, you’ll have to split your available resources between them. But, you need a clear plan to ensure that you allocate your dollars in the most effective way.

To get started, prioritize your debts and savings goals, keeping these things in mind:

  • High-interest debt will sink you. If you only make the minimum payments on your credit cards, you’ll be in the hole for years and pay potentially thousands extra in interest. Get rid of this debt first.
  • Lower interest debt isn’t as urgent. While you definitely want to pay off all of your obligations, “good” debt like student loans and your mortgage do less damage to your financial health.
  • Paying extra on installment loans doesn’t help your budget now. If you sock extra cash at your mortgage or student loans, you’ll reduce the total time you’re paying on them. But — it doesn’t change your required monthly payment amount.
  • An emergency fund will save you in a pinch. A cash reserve will keep you from going further in the hole when something breaks or you lose your job.
  • Start saving for time-sensitive goals ASAP. The holidays, your sister’s destination wedding, and your car registration renewal are all known events. Squirrel away a little bit here and there in the months leading up, and you’ll pay for them in cash with ease.
  • Don’t ignore retirement. It may seem like a million years away, but delaying saving for retirement will have long term negative effects. You’ll miss out on the compounding interest that actually works in your favor. If you can afford it, contribute at least enough to your retirement account to get your employer’s full match.

Choose the Right Mix

Once you’ve got your priorities in order, you need to divvy up your funds in a way that makes the most sense for you. For example, from your discretionary income, you could put 6% into retirement, 50% toward your credit card debt, and 44% toward your savings goals. As you pay off debt and your goals are completed or change, be sure to adjust your mix accordingly.

Remember: While there are some good guiding rules of thumb, how you manage your money is up to you. Personal finance is personal!

Find the Dollars

To make faster progress toward your financial goals, try freeing up more of your existing resources, increasing your cash flow, or both. Here are some steps you can take today:

  • Review your spending. Is there anything you can scale back on or nix?
  • Negotiate your bills. You may be able to get a lower rate on things like car insurance or cell phone service just by calling your provider.
  • Buy smarter. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting groceriesclothing, or shopping online, there are countless ways to get what you need and come in under budget.
  • Earn more dough. Consider picking up extra shifts at work, getting a second job, taking on freelance clients, or selling some of your unwanted stuff.

Remember: While it’s tempting, be sure to use your budget wins and side income for your debt pay off and savings goals, not for brunch and a new pair of shoes.

Final Thoughts

It can be overwhelming to juggle multiple, seemingly-competing financial goals. But if you proactively map out what you need your money to do, you can strike a balance that allows you to live your best life.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

Post to Twitter

10 Best Tips for Saving Money

It’s not called “hard-earned money” for nothing and unless you’re amazingly wealthy, all that money requires a lot of planning to ensure it is ending up in the right places. Being intentional with your money requires a good amount of time and effort but creating both short- and long-term goals for your savings can make it a lot easier to start saving up to reach these goals. Whether your goal is to retire safe and soundly at age 65 or to travel around the world twice before you’re 40, it can be difficult to determine the best place to start saving. Consider these following ways to cut back on costs and save your money overtime without flipping your current lifestyle upside-down.

1. Set Goals for Your Savings
If you don’t already have goals set for where you would like to be financially in the following years, now would be a great time to start thinking about it. Visualizing what you are saving for can help to reinstate some money-saving motivation – Are you looking to purchase a car in 2 years? Get married in 5? Retire in 30? Knowing what your target is and the amount you need to save each month to reach this goal is one of the best ways to really gain some inspiration to stop spending and start saving.

2. Uncover All of Your Unused Subscriptions
Be completely honest with yourself – do you really need 4 different movie streaming services? It’s easy to forget just how many subscriptions we have signed up for over the past years, but the end result can be costly. If you realize that the magazine subscription that you have had for 6 years ends up in the recycle every month without ever being read, maybe it’s time to consider cutting that one loose.
This may not save you thousands of dollars a month, but if you’re looking to find quick and easy ways to cut back on unnecessary spending, this is a great place for all of us to start.

3. Make Your Home Greener
This option isn’t only great for the environment – it’s great for your wallet, too. By making more energy-efficient life choices in your home, it may feel like you’re spending more now, but the overall savings will be worth it. A great place to start is with LED or CFL lights to reduce energy usage while also lasting longer than regular bulbs. If you’re really looking to go green, install a programmable thermostat and set your home’s temperature within your financial means or on eco-mode to save even more on energy costs.

4. Buy Generic, Not Name-Brand
Sometimes it pays to be a label snob, other times it doesn’t. When it comes to trash bags, simple pantry items, and even snacks, going generic can be a simple and easy way to save a few bucks every trip you make.

5. Buy Quality Home Products that Will Last
If you’re looking to purchase new appliances, furniture, or other home products, it’s worth it to do a bit of research before purchasing. A reliable appliance may feel like a lot of money now, but you will significantly save money in the long run if you don’t have to repurchase the same item every five years.
When you’re looking to buy something new for your home, take a peek at the reviews; it doesn’t have to break the bank initially to save you money in the long-run, but consider budget-friendly home products such as kitchen utensils, vacuum cleaners, and mattresses that are built to last and stand the test of time.

6. Meal Prep
On average, an American household spends over $3000 a year on dining out. Can you think of other personal financial situations where $3000 would do some good?
It can be difficult to hold yourself back from dining out with your friends during lunch or taking your family out to dinner after work, but it’s worth it to plan out your meals so that you can have a healthy and savings-friendly meal. Meal prepping is great for meals and snacks alike, and is especially handy if you have a big road-trip planned. Skip the convenience stores and fast food lines by preparing snacks ahead of time. Added bonus: meal prepping is way healthier than dining out!

7. Sign-Up for Rewards Programs
It’s easy to sign-up for your local grocery store’s rewards program but be sure to utilize it to its full potential. Take use of their coupons and other deals as often as you can when shopping to watch that receipt start to shrink. This can be done either through signing-up with your email or by registering for a rewards card – either way, let the savings begin!

8. Cut Gas Consumption
Cut your cost of gas in half by carpooling with a neighbor or friend to work. If you don’t know of anyone who is going in the same direction as you but you’re still looking to reduce costs on your commute, consider public transportation instead. Taking the subway or a public bus will not only lower the amount of gas that you have to purchase, but it will also reduce the usual wear-and-tear on your own vehicle. Not to mention your risk of those unavoidable fender benders during rush-hour will be completely mitigated by using public transportation instead.

9. Maintain Your Car
We have all pushed our car’s limits by ignoring the lights on the dash that tell us when something is wrong. However, a very important aspect of owning a car is proper maintenance and can help you prevent surprise issues from popping up in the future. This includes getting your oil changed routinely, keeping your tires properly inflated, and keeping your engine in-check to make sure your car is running as efficiently as possible.

When your car is running properly and you don’t have to worry about random technical issues arising out of (seemingly) thin air, driving becomes a lot less stressful, and a lot more cost efficient.

10. Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
It’s not uncommon to feel like you’ve been tricked into an unnecessary cell phone plan that includes costly data plans, insurance, and unneeded warranties. Don’t be afraid to switch to a simple plan or provider that saves you money upfront – we don’t all need 50 GB of data per month!

Elise Morgan

Post to Twitter

Can Staying in Hostels Help You Travel in Style?

Hostels tend to get a bad rap: dim lighting, smelly backpackers, or even cockroaches all over the place. When I first started traveling as an adult — I’m not going to admit how old I am because this was back in the day when they issued paper airline tickets — I settled for dingy dwellings just to save a few bucks. But no more!

Believe it or not, hostels have since become some pretty nice digs, ones you’ll be proud to stay in. Of course, they’re not the same as a luxury hotel, but you can travel in style and save some serious money.

Not convinced? Well, read on my friend, because you’ll learn how amazing hostels can help you save and have an adventurous travel experience.

Wait, What is a Hostel?

If you’re a hostel newbie (or you accidentally misread ‘hostel’ as ‘hotel’, no judgment there), let’s do a quick overview.

A hostel is what’s known as a budget-priced accommodation without the frills of what a hotel would offer. For example, you won’t get your own coffee machine inside your room or free soap. As well, most hostels offered shared rooms, meaning you won’t get a room to yourself unless you upgrade to a private room. Room size depends on the hostel — you could be bunking with as many as 8 to 10 other people in the same room and as few as 3 or 4, with bunk beds or normal twin beds. Guests are given lockers to store their things, instead of your classic hotel closet and dresser. You’ll also be sharing amenities such as bathrooms, workstations, kitchen and a lounge room. While you aren’t given toiletries, most hostels sell them for a low cost, and all kitchen tools (pots, pans, cutlery, etc.) are provided.

Any travelers choose to stay in hostels for the price. Depending on where you’re going, you could be paying as little as $25 for a shared room. Not too shabby considering most hotels are more than twice that amount. But that’s not the only perk!

Tell Me More, Please

If you’re unsure about the idea of shared accommodation, hear me out. Most hostels have undergone a  makeover over the past few years and many have started marketing themselves as luxury hostels. As in, you can get many of the same amenities as hotels and you’ll be staying in bright and clean places. Cockroaches no more!

What are some of these amenities you ask? Some spots offer pool access, free breakfast, community activities, and beautiful locations in city centers or incredible locations you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. Many of these hostels also offer boosted security, including keycard access (instead of physical keys) and strict rules as to who can be in the hostel (aka no unsolicited guests).

For example, Freehand Miami is only two blocks from the beach, offers free iced coffee, bike rentals, and daily housekeeping starting at just $30.

Hostelling International — a nonprofit operating a network of high-quality hostels — opened a Swiss spa hostel in the Saas-Fe mountains, a glacier village. Facilities you’ll get access to include massage showers, whirlpools, water slides, and saunas. If that’s not enough, there’s an in-house restaurant overlooking the Alps. All starting at around $64 a night!

And it’s not just single travelers who can stay at hostels. Many places offer private rooms with queen or king-sized beds for couples, and others have family rooms for multiple people. While these rooms cost more than the shared lodging, they’re still a fraction of what you’d pay at a hotel.

If you’re a solo traveler, a hostel can be a great way to meet people. You get the opportunity to hang out in the communal areas and meet travelers from all over the world. If you’re nervous to strike up a conversation, some hostels arrange events where you can’t help but meet new people. There’s stuff like free walking tours, welcome parties, happy hour, and movie nights. I met a solo traveler 10 years ago when we both stayed at the same hostel and we’re still friends!

Are There Any Downsides?

As cool and budget-friendly as hostels are there are a few downsides to consider. If you’re after better amenities, hostels may fall short of your expectations. Sure, where you’re staying may be clean and in a nice location, but may not get things like towels, toiletries, and your own refrigerator. Even if your shared room offers a locker, you may need to bring your own padlock.

Depending on your habits and personality, you may not get the privacy you desire. If you’re an introvert (or have had a long day), you may want some quiet time. While hostels do offer privacy in the way or room dividers or curtains between bunk beds as well as quiet hours, you won’t be able to escape some noise. This could be solved if you stay in a private room, but you’ll still need to use shared common areas.

Also, consider doing some research to see what kind of hostel you like. See if the hostel is for people who like to party, or it’s pretty chill or family friendly. That way you know what you’re getting into before you go.

Finally, you may end up spending more on other areas of travel. Let’s say you choose to stay at a hostel in a less accessible neighborhood or in a pricey area. You could be spending more on transportation or meals than you anticipated. But you can still save money with some strategic planning — don’t think that you have permission to splurge just because you saved money on your accommodation.

Are Hostels Right For Me?

If you’re looking for a cheap place to rest your head and stretch your travel budget, a hostel can be a great choice. You can find ones that are clean and safe, just make sure to check reviews before booking.

Of course, there is no right or wrong answer, just one that’s best for you. Whatever you decide, make sure you set a budget and be realistic on what you can spend, so that you can enjoy your trip totally guilt-free.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

Post to Twitter

7 Things to Invest in with Your Tax Return

If you’re expecting a tax refund this year, now is the time to start planning where the money is going to go. Instead of treating this money like it’s a gift from the government (hint: it’s not), give this money purpose by investing in things that will give you a positive return value.

  1. Pay Off Your Debt

This is possibly the least exciting option, but it is definitely the one that will put you in the best spot financially when done correctly. If you’re feeling shackled by your debt (especially your high-interest debt), consider taking your tax refund and putting it into paying off this burden.

Other than being great for your future financially, using your tax refund to pay off your debt has the possibility of increasing your credit score – a great added bonus that we would all love to have.

2. Spend it on Something You Need

Is your car slowly starting to break down? Have you forgotten to go to the doctor in 6 years? Consider using your tax return to pay for something you truly need to get done this year to take care of the essentials that you have been putting off for some time now.

3. Invest in Yourself

Taking some time and money to put back into your own well-being is something that we typically do not do often enough. Be sure to take care of your health this year by signing up for a gym membership, finding a mattress that isn’t a hand-me-down from your great grandmother’s house, or even getting a massage (or 5!). A little bit of self-care can go a long way, especially in today’s all-work-no-play environment.

4. Invest in Your Home

Take a good look at the value of your home. Do you have projects that you started two years ago and never finished? What about renovations that you’ve always dreamed of completing but have never even gotten quoted on? Tax season is a great time of the year to evaluate where you home could use some improvements, not only to make you feel happier and more comfortable in it, but to also increase its long-term value.

5. Fund a Roth IRA

Investing in a Roth IRA is a great way to find financial stability for your future-self. Roth IRAs act very similarly to regular investment funds, but they grow tax free and are basically retirement accounts that you can fund with after-tax money.

6. Spend it on Something You Want

You’ve been saving all year, but it’s hard to not feel guilty when we splurge a little bit. If you feel you have been working hard and deserve a nice vacation or a long weekend to the coast, don’t be afraid to take it! Remember – you earned this splurge.

7. Donate to Charity

A great way to spend your tax refund is by giving to those who are less fortunate. By donating to a charity that is close to your heart, you can feel good about where the money is going while also giving yourself the opportunity for larger deductions in the following year.

Sharing your wealth with those that are less fortunate is an important aspect of good money management and can improve the lives of numerous individuals – which can feel just as great as investing in yourself and your own financials.

Elise Morgan

Post to Twitter

6 Steps to Ditching Your Debt

Let’s face it — debt sucks! Keeping up with the payments means less cash to do what you really want. And, the interest makes the burden grow, often faster than your payments reduce the balance due. With a solid plan and a lot of determination, you can ditch your debt and get back to having more fun.

Not sure where to start? Here are Charlie’s 6 steps to ditching your debt:

Stop the Bleeding

Unless it’s completely unavoidable (like that student loan for next semester), don’t take on any more debt. Avoid new credit cards, lock up/cut up the ones that you have, and consider freezing your credit. It’s important to take control.

Assess the Damage

Now, it’s time to see what you’re up against. Make a list of all of your debts to include who you owe, how much you owe, the minimum monthly payment, and the interest rate. Then, brace yourself and determine the grand total.  (It’s OK to have a glass of wine, a chocolate cake, or a bubble bath after this step!)

Choose Your Strategy

There are two main ways to tackle debt: the snowball method or the avalanche method. With the snowball method, you pay your debts off from smallest to largest amount owed. This is great for momentum building — you’ll feel like you’re #winning pretty quickly. With the avalanche method, you pay off your debts from highest to lowest interest rate. Ultimately, the math works out in your favor here because you’ll pay less in interest overall. If you’re paying off debt, ignore any haters, because it’s a victory regardless of how you do it!

Tighten Your Purse Strings

Trimming your budget may be painful at first, but crushing your debt will feel amazing. There are some easy places to cut spending first: eating out, shopping, travel, entertainment, etc. If there are things you can’t cut completely, find hacks to spend less. Use gift cards, skip the expensive cocktail at dinner, or shop thrift stores. If you can’t cut these categories any further, consider going more extreme. Get a roommate, sell your car, or move back home. These strategies are hard, and may not be possible for you (or you’re already doing them!), but every dollar helps.

Hustle for Extra Cash

In addition to cutting your spending, try earning some extra money specifically to go toward your debt. Look for side gigs, sell your stuff, or offer freelance services.

Track Your Progress

Ditching your debt is hard work. It takes commitment and willpower. This process could take a long time, so it’s important to track how far you’ve come to keep your motivation level high. Be sure to reward yourself (in a budget-friendly way!) as each account balance hits zero.

Remember: You’re not in this alone. Charlie can help. Just tell him ‘pay off debt’ and he’ll guide you.

Share with Charlie: What’s your favorite debt pay off story? Do you have any tips for the community?

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

 

Post to Twitter