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

What to Do When You Miss a Paycheck

You’ve finally got a handle on your budgeting and then the unexpected happens… your paycheck is late.

If the thought is already sending you into a downward spiral, hold up. Yes, missing a paycheck is a less than ideal situation, but you need to have an action plan in place before it happens.

Don’t feel like you have to take out a personal loan or grab your credit card. Go through the following steps first to see what makes sense for your individual situation.

Dance Around Your House

No really. If you’re not a dancer (but c’mon we know you can move it move it) choose another little activity that will dissipate any nasty emotions.

When you panic, you might make a knee-jerk reaction you’ll regret. Yes, you need money to survive, but if you do something like yelling at your employer or borrow money with a high-interest loan, you may be dealing with those consequences years down the line.

Instead, take a few deep breaths and try to relax. The goal is to look at your situation objectively. Once you feel more in control, move onto the next step.

Look at Your Bank Accounts

Seeing where you stand financially will help you set a plan. No matter how you feel (you got this!), looking at the numbers gives you an objective picture of what is going on.

  • Look at all your bills (including debt) and see what you owe and their due date
  • Look at how much money you have in your checking and savings accounts

Once you have those numbers,  you can create an emergency budget to get you through the red.

Tap Into Your Emergency Fund

If you have savings set aside for emergencies, now’s the time to use it. That being said, it’s still a good idea to cut your budget down to the bare necessities just in case. When you start receiving paychecks again, then you can factor in a line item on your budget to replenish your emergency fund.

For those who don’t have emergency funds, now’s not the time to feel shame around it. Take this as a reminder that an emergency fund is there to help you when times are tough. Once your situation is back to normal and you’re receiving a regular paycheck, consider setting aside money in case an emergency fund happens.

As for how much to aim for, most experts agree that $1,000 is a good amount to strive for. Once you’ve reached that milestone, then aim for more — three to six months of your expenses. Charlie can help you set one up.

Make Sure The Necessities Are Taken Care Of

Now is the time to focus on the essentials, literally. Right now, your essentials are shelter, food, utilities, and transportation AKAthe items you need to ensure you still have a place to live and food on the table. If your last resort is eating at home with your parents for a week, you do what you gotta do.

The last step had you list out all of your bills and debt. Go ahead and include expenses and list them in order of importance. Once you have that, look at your emergency budget to see if you’ve allocated money towards the essentials. If not, adjust your budget accordingly.

Let’s say you have $500 in your checking account. Take a good, hard look at what you need to purchase until the next paycheck comes in.. For example, you tend to buy groceries once a month, but you notice that your pantry is pretty well stocked. Can you get creative and make meals based on what you already have? Or can you buy sale-only grocery items?

Slash and Burn Unnecessary Items

Remember — this is temporary. Once your paycheck arrives you can get your subscription services back if it makes sense. It sucks to think about giving up on things like Netflix and meal delivery kits. However, cutting back will help provide some relief when money is tight.

f there are services you can suspend or cancel temporarily, great. If canceling them means paying a hefty fine (like many cable subscription packages), see if you can negotiate with the company to see if there’s anything they can do. Charlie can help you with that! Just say “Help me cut my bills” and he’ll lead the way.

Same goes for any necessary expenses. Call up your mortgage or insurance provider and explain your situation. Some companies —  though not all — may help provide some relief by allowing you to defer your payments.

Sell Your Stuff

If cash is really tight, consider selling some of your unwanted items. Go through all your goods to see what you can sell — think baby clothes, designer items, books, CDs and even jewelry. There are plenty of resale or consignment stores that will take those items off your hands and pay you cash right away.

You can also consider selling your time and skills, like offering to mow your neighbors’ lawns, walk some dogs, or tutor kids in the evenings. There are tons of ways to put a few extra dollars in your pockets. Get creative and you may be surprised and what you’d find!

Talk to Your Employer

It varies from state to state, but most employers in the U.S. are required to disclose when and how you’ll get paid. Now’s the time to approach your employer to ask what’s going on and when you can expect to receive your next pay. You may also want to contact your state labor agency to find out about your rights. This way, you can keep updated on what’s going on and it might provide some relief.

If you do miss a paycheck, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Breathe, try to relax and look at your financial situation objectively. There are solutions. And if you need to ask for help from friends, family or in the form of a loan, so be it.

You’ve got this.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

Post to Twitter