5 Money Questions to Ask Before Marriage

If you’re tying the knot you may think engagement, wedding and honeymoon. Here’s why a financial discussion should also be part of your plans.

Money may not be the most romantic topic of conversation for couples sampling wedding cake and planning honeymoon adventures, but the way a couple approaches it can be a strong predictor of a marriage’s long-term success. Several studies have actually found that money is a top cause of stress in relationships.

But finances don’t have to cause friction for you and your soon-to-be spouse. A survey conducted by MONEY Magazine found that individuals who trust their partner with finances reported feeling more secure and having fewer arguments. Learning how to talk about money before you get married can be key to developing that financial confidence in your own relationship.

Open and honest ways to talk about money before marriage can help strengthen your relationship.

How do I talk about money before getting married, you ask? As you prepare to tie the knot, consider these five money questions to ask before marriage:

1. Do we understand our debt, assets and expenses?

One helpful way to talk about money before marriage is to sit down as a couple and take inventory of all the debt and assets you’re each bringing into your long-term commitment. This includes everything from student loans and mortgages to savings and retirement accounts. You may also want to get into the nitty gritty of your salaries and monthly expenses. Putting all of the details into a spreadsheet or an app that helps you manage your money can allow you to see your full financial picture.

While using this exercise as a way to talk about money before marriage may feel like a lot of work, it will come in handy when it’s time to make financial decisions, such as deciding what percentage of your joint income should go toward building an emergency fund, saving for retirement and paying down debt, explains financial expert Ginita Wall, co-founder of the nonprofit Women’s Institute for Financial Education.

If you're wondering how to talk about money before you get married, be sure you discuss your debts and assets as a couple.

“If one person in the relationship is maxing out her 401(k) contributions but eventually learns her husband is putting nothing toward retirement, it could become an issue,” she says. “An open dialogue that ensures that there will be no surprises about money, or any other topics for that matter, is important for a great relationship.”

2. Will we have joint or separate bank accounts?

Another way to talk about money before marriage is to consider whether you want to combine bank accounts, keep them separate or do a combination of both. The decision depends on each person’s preferences and the needs of the couple.

Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, a relationship therapist based in New York City, believes that having one joint account, but also guilt-free separate accounts for spending, can be helpful for many couples.

Keeping a joint account, she says, can provide a clear window into a family’s complete financial situation so the couple can make financial decisions accordingly. “This demonstrates that the couple is working together toward long-term financial goals,” she says.

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The guilt-free separate accounts, on the other hand, give both individuals “freedom to make small purchases as needed,” Weil adds.

As you’re addressing this money question to ask before marriage, know that in some cases, couples could benefit from keeping their investments separate.

“If two people have wildly different investment styles,” Wall says, “they just might decide to invest their money in their own ways.”

3. How has money impacted our upbringing?

When deciding how to talk about money before you get married, consider having an open discussion about how your parents handled money—including what you think they did well and what they could have done better—and how this has influenced your financial expectations and goals, Weil says. This is a valuable, but often overlooked, component of how to talk about money before you get married.

In many cases, an adult’s upbringing shapes his or her financial goals.

“If you grew up vacationing at the shore, chances are you might aspire to own a shore house as an adult,” Weil says. “This can become problematic if your spouse would much rather have a mountain house. Talk about where your goals originate from and then work toward making compromises.”

4. How could our financial dynamic shift over time?

Your financial situation today may be significantly different from your financial situation tomorrow. While it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds for your finances and lifestyle, there are ways to talk about money before marriage to lay the groundwork for decisions you may ultimately face. If you plan to have children, for example, you may want to discuss how career and financial priorities may shift. Will both spouses maintain their working arrangements? Will someone pick up more work or scale back?

Weil says other money questions to ask before marriage that could impact your long-term financial plans include:

  • Will you save for your children’s college education?
  • Do you plan to take care of aging parents?
  • How will you respond to family members who ask for financial support?
  • What measures do you want to put in place for disability and life insurance?
  • If there are children from a previous relationship, who will be responsible for their college or wedding expenses?

While the answers to these types of questions are personal and will vary from couple to couple, Weil says the most important rule is ensuring couples address them early on so there’s a clear understanding of how to handle each situation when it arises.

Couples need to find ways to talk about money before marriage—and plan to discuss finances regularly throughout married life.

5. When will we sit down to regularly talk finances?

While determining how to talk about money before you get married is an important milestone, ongoing communication is necessary. Weil believes it’s constructive to have a weekly money dialogue, while other experts, like Wall, say sitting down for a casual money meeting once a month is a good rule of thumb.

Choose a meeting frequency that works for you and stay committed to your schedule. This signals to your partner that your finances are important and that you’re willing to set aside the time to talk about joint objectives, Wall says.

When it’s time to meet, run through any financial concerns that may have popped up since your last conversation, as well as any financial goals or factors that could have an impact on financial planning for young families.

When differences arise during these talks, Weil suggests trying to walk in the other person’s shoes to understand his or her perspective. Being mindful and polite, as well as listening, are among the best ways to talk about money before marriage and beyond.

Why talk money before saying ‘I do’

Money can carry a lot of emotions, and Wall says that a lot of financial arguments aren’t actually about money.

“It’s often about equality, being respected, being listened to or being loved,” she says.

If the same types of arguments seem to resurface, it could indicate underlying issues about power and cooperation that couples should handle together, Wall explains.

While every marriage is bound to have some financial conflict now and then, starting a partnership off with these money questions to ask before marriage could help you get off on the right foot. Learning how to talk about money before you get married can also help align your financial hopes and dreams for your happily ever after.

Source: discover.com

Banking for Busy Parents: 4 Essential Checking Account Features

As a busy parent, your life is moving in all directions. Your checking account needs to keep pace.

It’s a nonstop day. The usual. You’re at the grocery store, grabbing a few things for dinner (note to self: hit the ATM on the way out!), then a much-needed coffee at the drive-through (swipe that debit card), before you drop your tween at her first day of basketball practice (remember to bring your checkbook). Phew. And you’re only halfway done.

In the middle of it all, you certainly don’t want the nagging feeling that you can’t access your money at a moment’s notice, that you’re missing spending perks or that you’ll be hit with unnecessary fees. So a good question for you might be, “What’s the best checking account for busy families?”

How about a checking account that matches your lifestyle? Robert Farrington, founder of millennial personal finance site The College Investor and father of two, suggests that banking for busy parents should include an account that is “conducive to an on-the-move life.”

With everything on your plate, you may not realize that as your family’s needs change, the way you manage your money will likely need to change too. The good news is that many financial institutions offer bank accounts for busy families like yours, designed with features aimed at supporting your active lifestyle.

The best checking account for busy families like yours should offer features that support your busy lifestyle.

To select the checking account that best serves your needs, Farrington recommends first examining your current patterns. “Notice how you deposit money and how you spend it,” Farrington says. “Look at your banking trends and see where you’re being charged.”

Next, identify the unique features offered by each new checking account you are considering. To help you do that, here are four key things to look for as you narrow down your search:

1. Cash back rewards: More bang for your buck

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs about $12,980 a year to raise a child. Even if your kids get their share of hand-me-downs and you don’t buy them everything they want, you’re still spending a lot. The biggest costs—after housing (29 percent of child-rearing costs)—are food (18 percent) and child care/education (16 percent). None of that even includes birthdays, holidays and so on…

If you’re trying to find the best checking account for busy families, consider that all those purchases could be a little less painful with a checking account that rewards spending, typically in the form of cash back or rewards points.

Ashley Patrick, founder of the blog Budgets Made Easy, loves the idea of a checking account that offers rewards. Patrick, whose blog tells the story of how she paid off $45,000 of debt in 17 months, recommends that budget-conscious families use debit cards for purchases. “If those purchases were rewarded,” Patrick says, “that money would multiply.”

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If you’re using a checking account that rewards you for debit card purchases, some of those seemingly endless expenses can actually help you save a bit of extra cash. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, lets you earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 That means your monthly cash back earnings could yield $360 in total rewards each year. This feature of a bank account for busy families could pay for one night at your favorite family resort!

2. Easy account access: At home or on the run

You’re dropping off one kid, picking up the other, then have to get ready for a fundraiser. You are always on the go, so it’s time to find the best checking account for busy families that’s always right there with you. Patrick suggests opening a checking account with a bank that has a vast network of no-fee ATM locations. For example, Discover offers more than 60,000 no-fee ATMs around the U.S.

Look for easy access to your funds when searching for the right bank account for busy families.

“I live out in the country, about 12 to 13 miles from town, so I need an ATM nearby,” Patrick says. “I usually go to town on Fridays or Mondays, get lunch for the kids, go to the store for groceries and get cash. Everything needs to be in one location.”

Besides getting money for day-to-day purchases, a conveniently located ATM is a must for depositing cash. Why make a special trip to visit your local branch when you can make deposits at an ATM that’s at or near a place you already frequent? Banking for busy parents is hard to imagine without this benefit.

3. Online and mobile features: Save time in spades

In fact, you may not need a brick-and-mortar bank branch at all. Another option to consider is opening a checking account with an online bank.

The best bank account for busy families is one that offers maximum convenience. With an online checking account, all you need is a computer, tablet or smartphone to deposit a check (most online banks have a mobile app that allows you to take a photo of your check to deposit the funds). An online checking account also makes banking for busy parents effortless by allowing them to manage bills and bank statements from a device—either while at home or out and about. Save the paper for your kids’ cute drawings that you tack up on the fridge.

Mobile and online features are important when looking for the right banking for busy parents.

Nermeen Ghneim, blogger at Savvy Dollar and mom of two, says the best checking account for busy families would offer a mobile app.

“I want to be able to access everything a bank can offer through my mobile device,” Ghneim says. “It saves time, and it’s huge for a parent with a full-time job.”

Here are some of the other online and mobile features that are key if you’re looking for the best checking account for busy families:

  • Online transfers. Farrington says the ability to transfer money between accounts is especially important. Things come up unexpectedly and you may need to quickly transfer from savings to checking, or move those cash back rewards into a college fund for the kids. If you’re moving your cash back rewards into savings, you may even be able to make that happen automatically. For example, when you enroll in Discover’s Auto Redemption to Savings, we’ll automatically deposit your cash back into a Discover Online Savings Account every month.
  • Online bill payments. With everything else on your mind, you shouldn’t have to go through a stack of bills every month. The best checking account for busy families would allow you to set up automatic bill payments, so each month’s charges are automatically debited from your checking account.
  • Balance notifications. You should never be in the middle of a transaction and see those dreaded words: Insufficient Funds. Instead, you want to get a heads-up when your balance is close to zero, so there aren’t any surprises.
  • Debit card protection. While it’s important to be able to quickly and easily use your debit card, Ghneim says it’s just as important to be able to freeze it. Some banks offer a digital feature that enables you to switch your debit card on and off, so you can instantly freeze your debit card if it’s been misplaced or you want to curb spending.
  • Connecting to other digital applications. Nowadays, busy families rely on budgeting and spending apps to help manage their finances. A good bank account for busy families would be able to easily sync with those other tools online or via your mobile device so that you can efficiently manage your money and take advantage of the features of each app.

4. No-fee checking: A money-saving must-have

Farrington says that when selecting the best bank account for busy families, a no-fee checking account is a must-have, so it’s worth shopping around until you find one. For example, Discover Cashback Debit has no account-related fees.2 “You shouldn’t have to pay a fee if you don’t keep a minimum balance,” Farrington says. “Parents often don’t have the bandwidth to keep track of whether they’ve made a certain number of transactions.”

If you are getting hit with a checking account fee for any of the items below, you may want to consider a new checking account to make banking for busy parents easier:

  • Monthly maintenance
  • In-network ATM withdrawals
  • Replacement debit card
  • Standard checks
  • Online bill pay
  • Insufficient funds
  • Stop payment order
  • Official bank check

If you’re exploring a new bank account for busy families, Ghneim advises to watch out for hidden costs. Even no-fee checking accounts will sometimes hit you with unexpected charges. “There should be no hidden fees because if a family is living off a budget, it’s very stressful to incur unexpected fees,” Ghneim says. Farrington agrees: “There are some things that might cost you money, like wire transfers, but you shouldn’t have to pay for most features these days.”

Banking for busy parents just got easier

Above all, Farrington says you want to prioritize the features that are most relevant to your family’s needs and lifestyle. If you’re always on the go, you may care most about convenient, no-fee ATMs and mobile check deposits. If your schedule necessitates a lot of out-of-pocket spending, you may want to prioritize debit card cash back rewards.

Keep in mind that when it comes to establishing the best banking for busy parents, you have options. “There are so many checking accounts being offered now,” Farrington says. As long as you’re aware of the features that are available, you can make an informed decision and choose the account that’s best for you and your family.

1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal, which also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

2 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.

Source: discover.com

8 Ways to Save Money on Date Night

Planning budget-friendly date nights can keep your relationship and your finances healthy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Share common interests on the cheap

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

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

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

2. Create a low-budget date night bucket list

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

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

– Financial news website 24/7 Wall St.

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

3. Alternate paid date nights with free ones

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

4. Have a date—and get stuff done

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

5. Search for off-the-wall spots

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

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

6. Leverage coupons and deals

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

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

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

7. Join restaurant loyalty programs

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

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

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

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

– Dustyn Ferguson, personal finance blogger at Dime Will Tell

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

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

Put your date night savings toward shared goals

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

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Affording a Second Child: How to Make Your Budget Work

If you’re welcoming a second child, your spending and savings habits may need a tune-up.

Having kids is anything but cheap. According to the USDA, families can expect to spend an average of $233,610 raising a child born in 2015 through age 17—and that’s not including the cost of college. The cost of raising a child has also increased since your parents were budgeting for kids. Between 2000 and 2010, for example, the cost of having children increased by 40 percent.

If you’ve had your first child, you understand—from diapers to day care to future extracurricular activities, you know how it all adds up. You’ve already learned how to adjust your budget for baby number one. How hard can it be repeating the process a second time?

While you may feel like a parenting pro, overlooking tips to prepare financially for a second child could be bad news for your bank account. Fortunately, affording a second child is more than doable with the right planning.

If your family is about to expand, consider these budgeting tips for a second child:

1. Think twice about upsizing

When asking yourself, “Can I afford to have a second child?”, consider whether your current home and car can accommodate your growing family.

Think twice about upsizing your car or house if you're concerned about affording a second child.

Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet, says sharing bedrooms can be a major money-saver if you’re considering tips to prepare financially for a second child. Sharing might not be an option, however, if a second child would make an already small space feel even more cramped. Running the numbers through a mortgage affordability calculator can give you an idea of how much a bigger home might cost.

Swapping your current car out for something larger may also be on your mind if traveling with kids means doubling up on car seats and stowing a stroller and diaper bag onboard. But upgrading could mean adding an expensive car payment into your budget.

“Parents should first decide how much they can afford to spend on a car,” Palmer says.

Buying used can help stretch your budget when you’re trying to afford a second child—but don’t cut corners on cost if it means sacrificing the safety features you want.

Families can expect to spend an average of $233,610 raising a child born in 2015 through age 17—and that’s not including the cost of college.

– USDA

2. Be frugal about baby gear

It’s tempting to go out and buy all-new items for a second baby, but you may want to resist the urge. Palmer’s tips to prepare financially for a second child include reusing as much as you can from your first child. That might include clothes, furniture, blankets and toys.

Being frugal with family expenses can even extend past your own closet.

“If you live in a neighborhood with many children, you’ll often find other families giving away gently used items for free,” Palmer says. You may also want to scope out consignment shops and thrift stores for baby items, as well as online marketplaces and community forums. But similar to buying a used car, keep safety first when you’re using this budgeting tip for a second child.

“It’s important to check for recalls on items like strollers and cribs,” Palmer says. “You also want to make sure you have an up-to-date car seat that hasn’t been in any vehicle crashes.”

3. Weigh your childcare options

You may already realize how expensive day care can be for just one child, but that doesn’t mean affording a second child will be impossible.

A tip to prepare financially for a second child is to weigh your childcare options.

Michael Gerstman, chartered financial consultant and CEO of Gerstman Financial Group, LLC in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says parents should think about the trade-off between both parents working if it means paying more for daycare. If one parent’s income is going solely toward childcare, for example, it could make more sense for that parent to stay at home.

Even if this budgeting tip for a second child is appealing, you’ll also want to think about whether taking time away from work to care for kids could make it difficult to get ahead later in your career, Palmer adds.

“If you stay home with your child, then you’re also potentially sacrificing future earnings,” she says.

4. Watch out for sneaky expenses

There are two major budgeting tips for a second child that can sometimes be overlooked: review grocery and utility costs.

If you’re buying formula or other grocery items for a newborn, that can quickly add to your grocery budget. That grocery budget may continue to grow as your second child does and transitions to solid food. Having a new baby could also mean bigger utility bills if you’re doing laundry more often or running more air conditioning or heat to accommodate your family spending more time indoors with the little one.

Gerstman recommends using a budgeting app as a tip to prepare financially for a second child because it can help you plan and track your spending. If possible, start tracking expenses before the baby arrives. You can anticipate how these may change once you welcome home baby number two, especially since you’ve already seen how your expenses increased with your first child. Then, compare that estimate to what you’re actually spending after the baby is born to see what may be costing you more (or less) than you thought each month. You can then start reworking your budget to reflect your new reality and help you afford a second child.

5. Prioritize financial goals in your new budget

Most tips to prepare financially for a second child focus on spending, but don’t neglect creating line items for saving in your budget.

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“An emergency fund is essential for a family,” Palmer says. “You want to make sure you can cover your bills even in the event of a job loss or unexpected expense.”

Paying off debt and saving for retirement should also be on your radar. You might even be thinking about starting to save for your children’s college.

Try your best to keep your own future in mind alongside your children’s. While it feels natural to put your children’s needs first, remember that your needs are also your family’s—and taking care of your future means taking care of theirs, too.

“Putting money aside when you’re expecting can help offset the sticker shock that comes with a new member of the family.”

– Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet

The key to affording a second child

Remember, the earlier you begin planning, the easier affording a second child can be.

“Putting money aside when you’re expecting can help offset the sticker shock that comes with a new member of the family,” Palmer says. Plus, the more you plan ahead, the more time you’ll have to create priceless memories with your growing family.

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What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave

Follow these four steps to financially prepare for your maternity leave.

Prepping for a new baby’s arrival might kick your nesting instinct into high gear, as you make sure everything is just right before the big day. One thing to add to your new-baby to-do list is figuring out how to financially prepare for maternity leave if you’ll be taking time away from work.

Lauren Mochizuki, a nurse and budgeting expert at personal finance blog Casa Mochi, took time off from work for the births of both her children. Because she had only partial paid leave each time, she says a budget was critical in making sure money wasn’t a source of stress.

“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time,” Mochizuki says.

But the question “How do I budget for maternity leave?” is a big one. One thing’s for sure—the answer will be different for everyone, since not everyone’s leave or financial situation is the same. What matters most is taking action early to get a grip on your finances while there’s still time to plan.

Before you get caught up in the new-baby glow, here’s what you need to do to financially prepare for maternity leave:

1. Estimate how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last

To financially prepare for maternity leave, you need to know how long you plan to be away from work without pay.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave from work per year for certain family and medical reasons, including for the birth of a child. Some employers may also offer a period of paid leave for new parents.

The amount of unpaid maternity leave you take will determine the budget you’ll need while you’re away.

When estimating how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last, Mochizuki says to consider how much unpaid leave you plan to take based on your personal needs and budget. For example, you could find you’re not able to take the full period offered by FMLA after reviewing your expenses (more on that below) and how much you have in savings.

Even if your employer does offer paid maternity leave, you may decide to extend your time at home by supplementing your paid leave with unpaid time off, Mochizuki says.

Keep in mind that despite all of your budgeting for maternity leave, your health and the health of your baby may also influence how much unpaid time off you take and how long your maternity leave budget needs to stretch.

As you’re financially preparing for maternity leave, make sure your spouse or partner is also considering what benefits may be available to them through their employer. Together you should know what benefits are available for maternity or paternity leave, either paid or unpaid, and how to apply for them as you jointly navigate the budgeting for maternity leave process. You can then decide how to coordinate the amount of time each of you should take and when that leave should begin.

Contact your HR department to learn about your company’s maternity leave policy, how to apply for leave and whether there are any conditions you need to meet to qualify for leave. Ask if you’re able to leverage sick days, vacation days or short-term disability for paid maternity leave.

2. Babyproof your budget

When budgeting for maternity leave, make sure you review your current monthly budget to assess how budgeting for a new baby fits in.

In Mochizuki’s case, she and her husband added a category to save for maternity leave within their existing budget for household expenses (e.g., mortgage, utilities, groceries).

“We treated it as another emergency fund, meaning we had a goal of how much we wanted to save and we kept working and saving until we reached that goal,” Mochizuki says.

Figure out what new expenses might be added to your budget and which existing ones might reduce to financially prepare for maternity leave.

As you financially prepare for maternity leave, consider the following questions:

  • What new expenses need to be added to your budget? Diapers, for instance, can cost a family around $900 per year, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. You may also be spending money on formula, bottles, wipes, clothes and toys for your new one, all of which can increase your monthly budget. And don’t forget the cost of any new products or items that mom will need along the way. Running the numbers with a first-year baby costs calculator can help you accurately estimate your new expenses and help with financial planning for new parents.
  • Will any of your current spending be reduced while you’re on leave? As you think about the new expenses you’ll need to add when budgeting for maternity leave, don’t forget the ones you may be able to nix. For example, your budget may dip when it comes to commuting costs if you’re not driving or using public transit to get to work every day. If you have room in your budget for meals out or entertainment expenses, those may naturally be cut if you’re eating at home more often and taking it easy with the little one.

3. Tighten up the budget—then tighten some more

Once you’ve evaluated your budget, consider whether you can streamline it further as you financially prepare for maternity leave. This can help ease any loss of income associated with taking time off or counter the new expenses you’ve added to your maternity leave budget.

Becky Beach, founder of Mom Beach, a personal finance blog for moms, says that to make her maternity leave budget work—which included three months of unpaid leave—she and her husband got serious about reducing unnecessary expenses.

Find ways to reduce costs on bills like insurance and groceries to help save for maternity leave.

Cut existing costs

As you budget for maternity leave, go through your existing budget by each spending category.

“The best tip is to cut costs on things you don’t need, like subscriptions, movie streaming services, new clothes, eating out, date nights, etc.,” Beach says. “That money should be earmarked for your new baby’s food, clothes and diapers.”

Cutting out those discretionary “wants” is an obvious choice, but look more closely at other ways you could save. For example, could you negotiate a better deal on your car insurance or homeowner’s insurance? Can you better plan and prep for meals to save money on food costs? How about reducing your internet service package or refinancing your debt?

Find ways to earn

Something else to consider as you budget for maternity leave is how you could add income back into your budget if all or part of your leave is unpaid and you want to try and close some of the income gap. For example, before your maternity leave starts, you could turn selling unwanted household items into a side hustle you can do while working full time to bring in some extra cash and declutter before baby arrives.

Reduce new costs

As you save for maternity leave, also think about how you could reduce expenses associated with welcoming a new baby. Rather than buying brand-new furniture or clothing, for example, you could buy those things gently used from consignment shops, friends or relatives and online marketplaces. If someone is planning to throw a baby shower on your behalf, you could create a specific wish list of items you’d prefer to receive as gifts in order to offset costs.

4. Set a savings goal and give every dollar a purpose

When Beach and her husband saved for maternity leave, they set out to save $20,000 prior to their baby’s birth. They cut their spending, used coupons and lived frugally to make it happen.

In Beach’s case, they chose $20,000 since that’s what she would have earned over her three-month maternity leave, had she been working. You might use a similar guideline to choose a savings goal. If you’re receiving paid leave, you may strive to save enough to cover your new expenses.

Setting a savings goal and tracking expenses before the new baby arrives is an easy way to save for maternity leave.

As you make your plan to save for maternity leave, make sure to account for your loss of income and the new expenses in your maternity leave budget. Don’t forget to factor in any savings you already have set aside and plan to use to help you financially prepare for maternity leave.

Once you’ve come up with your savings target, consider dividing your maternity savings into different buckets, or categories, to help ensure the funds last as long as you need them to. This could also make it harder to overspend in any one category.

For instance, when saving for maternity leave, you may leverage buckets like:

  • Planned baby expenses
  • Unexpected baby costs or emergencies
  • Mother and baby healthcare

“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time.”

– Lauren Mochizuki, budgeting expert at Casa Mochi

Budgeting for maternity leave—and beyond

Once maternity leave ends, your budget will evolve again as your income changes and new baby-related expenses are introduced. As you prepare to go back to work, review your budget again and factor in any new costs. For example, in-home childcare or daycare may be something you have to account for, along with ongoing healthcare costs for new-baby checkups.

Then, schedule a regular date going forward to review your budget and expenses as your baby grows. You can do this once at the beginning or end of the month or every payday. Take a look at your income and expenses to see what has increased or decreased and what adjustments, if any, you need to make to keep your budget running smoothly.

Budgeting for maternity leave takes a little time and planning, but it’s well worth the effort. Knowing that your finances are in order lets you relax and enjoy making memories—instead of stressing over money.

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4 Smart Things to Do When You Get an Inheritance

Coming into a windfall? Here’s how to make the most of it.

You just learned of the passing of a loved one. During this stressful and emotionally taxing time, you also find out that you’re receiving an inheritance. While you’re grateful for the unexpected windfall, knowing what to do with an inheritance can bring its own share of stress.

While the amounts vary greatly, the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances reports that an average of roughly 1.7 million households receive an inheritance each year. First words of wisdom—resist the urge to spend it all at once. According to a study funded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-third of people who receive an inheritance spend all of it—and even dip into other savings—in the first two years.

Not me, you say? Still, you might be asking, “What should I do with my inheritance money?” Follow these four steps to help you make smart decisions with your newfound wealth:

Take time to grieve and process your emotions before diving into the things to do when you get an inheritance.

1. Take time to grieve your loss

Deciding what to do with an inheritance can bring with it mixed emotions: a sense of reprieve for this unexpected financial gain and sadness for the loss of a loved one, says Robert Pagliarini, certified financial planner and president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors.

During this time, you might feel confused, upset and overwhelmed. “A large inheritance that pushes you out of your financial comfort zone can create anxiety about how to best manage the money,” Pagliarini says. As an inheritor, Pagliarini adds that you may feel the need to be extra careful with the funds; even though you know it is your money, it could feel borrowed.

The last thing you want to do when deciding what to do with an inheritance is make financial decisions under an emotional haze. Avoid making any drastic moves right away, such as quitting your job or selling your home. Some experts suggest giving yourself a six-month buffer before using any of your inheritance, using the time instead to develop a financial plan. While you are thinking about things to do with an inheritance, you can park any funds in a high-yield savings account or certificate of deposit.

“A large inheritance that pushes you out of your financial comfort zone can create anxiety about how to best manage the money.”

– Robert Pagliarini, president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors

2. Know what you’re inheriting

Before you determine the things to do with an inheritance, you need to know what you’re getting. Certified financial planner and wealth manager Alex Caswell says how you use your inheritance will largely depend on its source. Typically, Caswell says an inheritance will come in the form of assets from one of three places:

  • Real estate, such as a house or property. As Caswell explains, if you receive assets from real estate, you will transfer them into your name. As the inheritor, you can choose what to do with the assets—typically sell, rent or live in them.
  • A trust account, a legal arrangement through which funds are held by a third party (the trustee) for the benefit of another party (the beneficiary), which may be an individual or a group. The creator of the trust is known as a grantor. “If someone inherits assets through a trust, the trust documents will stipulate how these assets will be distributed and who ultimately decides how they are to be invested,” Caswell says. In some cases, the assets get distributed outright to you; in other instances, the trust stays intact and you get paid in installments.
  • A retirement account, such as an IRA, Roth IRA or 401(k). These accounts can be distributed in one lump sum, however, there may be requirements related to the amount of a distribution and the cadence of distributions.

One of the first things to do with an inheritance is be sure you understand what you've inherited.

When considering things to do with an inheritance, know that inherited assets can be designated as Transfer on Death (TOD) or beneficiary deeds (in the case of real estate), which means the assets can be transferred to beneficiaries without the often lengthy probate process. An individual may also bequeath cash or valuables, like jewelry or family heirlooms, as well as life insurance or stock certificates.

Caswell says if your inheritance comes in the form of investment assets, such as stocks or mutual funds, you’ll want to think of them as part of your own financial picture. “All too often, we see individuals end up treating inherited assets as a living extension of their passed relative,” Caswell says. Consider how the investments can be used to support your financial goals when thinking about things to do when you get an inheritance.

An average of roughly 1.7 million households receive an inheritance each year.

– Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances

3. Plan what to do with your financial gain

Just like doing your household budgeting, it’s important to “assign” your inheritance to specific purposes or goals, says Pacifica Wealth Advisors’ Pagliarini. Depending on your financial situation, the simple concepts of save, spend and give may be a good place to start when deciding on things to do when you get an inheritance:

SAVE:

  • Bolster your emergency fund: You should have at least three to six months of living expenses saved up to avoid unexpected financial shocks, such as job loss, car repairs or medical expenses. If you don’t and you’re deciding what things to do with an inheritance, consider parking some cash in this bucket.
  • Save for big goals: Now could be a good time to boost your long-term savings goals and pay it forward. Things to do when you get an inheritance could include putting money toward a child’s college fund or getting your retirement savings on track.

SPEND:

  • Tackle debt: If you’re evaluating what to do with an inheritance, high-interest debt is something you could consider paying off. Spending on debt repayment can help you save on hefty interest charges.
  • Reduce or pay off your mortgage: Getting closer to paying off your home—or paying it off entirely—can also save you in interest and significantly lower your monthly expenses. Allocating cash here is a win-win.
  • Enjoy a little bit of it: It’s okay to use a portion of your inheritance on something you enjoy or find rewarding. Planning a vacation, investing in more education or paying for a big purchase could be good moves.

GIVE:

  • Donate funds to charity: Thinking about your loved one’s causes or your own can continue legacy goals and provide tax benefits.

4. Don’t get tripped up on taxes

When deciding what to do with an inheritance, taxes will need to be considered. “It is extremely important to be aware of all tax ramifications of any decision around inherited assets,” Caswell says. You could be required to pay a capital gains tax if you sell the gift (like property) that was passed down to you, for example. Also, depending on where you live, your inherited money could be taxed. In addition to federal estate taxes, several U.S. states impose an inheritance tax and/or an estate tax.

Since every situation is unique and tax laws can change, when considering things to do with an inheritance, consult a financial advisor or tax professional for guidance.

Make your windfall count

Receiving an inheritance has the potential to change your financial picture for good. When thinking about the things to do when you get an inheritance, be sure to give yourself ample time to grieve and to understand all of your options. Don’t be afraid to lean on the experts to get up to speed on any tax and legal implications you need to consider.

Planning can go a long way toward making the right decisions concerning your newfound wealth. Being responsible with your inheritance not only helps ensure your financial future, but will also honor your loved one’s legacy.

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Budgeting for a New Baby? Babyproof Your Budget in 4 Steps

Congratulations are in order! Amidst the excitement of your new family addition, consider the following steps to get your budget ready.

Having a baby means countless changes in your life, and they can happen very quickly. Diapers. Day care. Days running on little sleep. While it may not be on the top of your parenting list, budgeting for a new baby can help prepare your family for the excitement that’s ahead.

Kelsa Dickey is a financial coach and co-owner of Fiscal Fitness, a financial coaching company based in Phoenix. For her and her husband, budgeting has helped reduce money stress since they had their daughter in 2015.

“I absolutely worry less about finances because we budget our money,” Dickey says. “I find budgeting incredibly liberating.”

How do you prepare financially for a baby so you can worry less about finances as a parent? Here are four tips that expecting parents can use to help figure out their new financial reality and learn how to budget for a baby:

One important tip for budgeting for a new baby is making sure you're prepared for pregnancy expenses.

1. Prep for pregnancy expenses

Budgeting for a new baby often starts long before the baby arrives. You may have to account for medical bills, prenatal vitamins and maternity clothes, for example. Budgeting for a new baby can become easier if you account for these new expenses before you even need to make the purchases.

Alli Wittbold, a former teacher and blogger at Mom Smart Not Hard, and her husband, were able to save a significant amount on their medical bills when they had their daughter in 2016. Before they were even pregnant, they thought about ways to save money and researched the maternity coverage on both of their insurance plans. They found the coverage on her husband’s plan was much better than hers. By switching their coverage to her husband’s plan before getting pregnant, they were able to save thousands of dollars in maternity-related medical expenses.

While not all pregnancy expenses can be so well-planned in advance, sit down with your budget and make a list of all the new, common costs you’ll need to account for as you prepare for your family’s newest addition. Talking with other parents can help you get a sense for costs that may creep up higher than expected (for Dickey, it was maternity clothes, including new shoes and compression socks), as well as those not even on your radar.

2. Save for baby-related costs

For the Dickeys, budgeting for a new baby meant accounting for increased monthly spending on things they’d anticipated, such as diapers, wipes, baby food and day care. But they also encountered plenty of unexpected expenses. For instance, Dickey planned to nurse and found that nursing supplies and support took a big chunk out of their budget.

“Paying for one-on-one help and consulting was not something I anticipated,” she says.

The Wittbolds also encountered unexpected costs when budgeting for a new baby. They didn’t plan for supplies for when their baby got sick. “During our daughter’s first cold, we ran out to buy a humidifier and nasal aspirator,” Wittbold says.

To cope with unexpected expenses related to their daughter, the Dickeys adjusted their budget and began putting a set amount of money into a specific savings account each month. “I highly recommend doing this because you don’t necessarily know what you will or won’t need, so this allows for some flexibility,” Dickey says.

If you’re looking for additional strategies to learn how to budget for a baby, consider starting an emergency fund to help you better budget for a new baby’s unexpected expenses.

“You can’t plan for everything, but if you can plan for even 75 percent of what you’ll need,” Dickey says, “the other 25 percent will be that much easier to tackle.”

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3. Get creative with your purchases

While baby items can be fun to shop for (think cute little onesies), paying full price on everything can make it nearly impossible to budget for a new baby. The Wittbolds were gifted a lot of the things they needed at their baby shower, but they also shopped secondhand—a great tip for those worried about how to budget for a baby. They perused local classifieds and online marketplaces, and they even picked up hand-me-downs from friends with older children.

The Wittbolds also found creative (and fun) ways to save money by pooling resources from their friends. “My husband had a ‘daddy diaper party’ with all of his guy friends. As a gift, each friend brings a box of diapers,” Wittbold says. “We didn’t have to buy diapers for months.”

4. Account for income changes

Whether you intend to take a parental leave from work or have one parent stay at home to care for your child, you may have to figure out how to budget for a baby with less income than you’re used to.

Dickey and her husband own their financial coaching business, and they were worried about loss of income since they don’t work for an employer with maternity or paternity leave benefits. She knew she wanted to take six weeks off after having her daughter, so they started saving for the drop in income as soon as they knew they were pregnant.

“It made it so I didn’t worry and knew I could enjoy that time off with my daughter,” she says.

If you're facing changes in income after having a child, looking for ways to save money when you have a baby is even more important.

Wittbold decided to cope with her time off work as a school teacher by enacting a spending freeze once she was no longer earning an income. “For us, this means no spending aside from grocery store essentials, baby essentials like diapers, gas and of course bills,” she says. “To prepare for this, I stocked our freezer with homemade meals that could be dumped in the Crock-Pot or popped in the oven.”

Not long after her daughter was born, Wittbold decided to continue staying at home rather than return to her teaching position. She needed longer-term solutions to account for one less full-time income. After seeking out online opportunities, she found a remote position where she could teach English online. This helped her start earning enough part-time money to make staying at home possible.

“I teach every morning from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.,” she says. “This change meant an additional $1,200 for our family every month.” This kind of flexible side hustle that you can maintain while parenting is a great way to bring in additional income if you’re budgeting for a new baby and looking for ways to save money when you have a baby.

Sleep soundly (well, eventually) thanks to your budget

While you might not be able to sleep through the night anytime soon, budgeting for a new baby will help give you peace of mind. Knowing you have a plan for expected and unexpected expenses, as well as understanding ways to save money when you have a baby, can allow you to make the most of your time with your family.

“Budgeting has forced us to do things like meal plan, create cleaning schedules and use our time more effectively in order to earn money from home,” Wittbold says. “This all results in less stress and more time with our baby because we are using the time we have more intentionally.”

Source: discover.com

Your Guide to Budgeting for Summer Camp

Send your campers off for summer fun without blowing your budget. Here’s how.

Summer camp is a rite of passage. A place where traditions begin and memories are made. A unique venue with a structured opportunity for kids to grow and learn new skills. As enriching as it may seem, embarking on the process each year can be intense: How do I choose a camp? Should it have a philosophy? How do I know my child will have fun? But often the question at the top of the list is, “How do I budget for summer camp?”

Whether you’re scrambling for camp arrangements for this year or getting a jump-start on next summer, you’re in need of a working budget for summer camp. “As a parent who sent several kids to summer camp for many years, I know how expensive it can be,” says Leslie H. Tayne, author and founder of debt solutions law firm Tayne Law Group.

Read on for expert budgeting tips for summer camp and how to save money on summer camp so you can make the best decisions concerning your wallet and your child’s wish list:

1. Get a handle on camp tuition

According to the American Camp Association, sleep-away camp tuition can range from $630 to more than $2,000 per camper per week. Day camp tuition isn’t too far behind, ranging from $199 to more than $800 per week.

One of the best ways to budget for summer camp is to understand your needs for the summer as well as your child's interests.

One of the best ways to budget for summer camp and prepare for tuition costs is to understand your needs for the summer as well as your child’s interests. This will help you determine ‘how much’ and ‘what type’ of camp you want: Is day-camp coverage important all summer because of work? Does your child want to experience sleep-away camp for a portion of the time? Is a camp with a specific focus (say a sport or hobby) on the list?

Depending on your circumstances and child’s expectations, it’s not unusual to be looking at a combination of camps—and tuition costs—in one season. If you have multiple kids at different ages, with different interests, creating a budget for summer camp and understanding how much you’ll need to dish out in tuition becomes especially important.

Once your camp plan is in place, assess how much you’ll need to pay in tuition for the summer months with school out of session. The sooner you’ve arrived at this figure, the easier it will be to work the expense into your household budget, says Heather Schisler, money-saving expert and founder of deal site Passion for Savings. “It’s much easier to set aside $30 a month than it is to come up with $300 to $400 at one time,” Schisler says.

Sleep-away camp tuition can range from $630 to more than $2,000 per camper per week. Day camp tuition ranges from $199 to more than $800 per week.

– American Camp Association

2. Plan for expenses beyond tuition

One of the biggest budgeting tips for summer camp is planning for the many costs outside of tuition. Tayne points out that sleep-away camp usually comes with a longer supply list than day camp—such as specific clothing or gear and toiletries to cover the length of stay. If your child is heading to a sleep-away camp far from home, your budget for summer camp may also need to factor in the cost of transportation or the cost to ship luggage. Day camps can also have fees for extended hours or transportation if your child rides a camp bus each day.

Once you’ve selected a camp—day camp or sleep-away—check its website for camper packing lists and guidelines. Most camps offer checklists that you can print out, which can be good for tracking supplies and costs as you go. After you enroll, your camp may provide access to an online portal that can help you manage tuition and track additional expenses, like canteen money, which is cash your child can use for snacks and additional supplies while away.

One of the best budgeting tips for summer camp is making sure you understand how much everything will cost—that's tuition plus any extra camp costs.

3. Create a year-round savings strategy

By calculating the necessary expenses ahead of time for the camps you and your campers have chosen, you’ll be able to determine an overall budget for summer camp. A budgeting tip for summer camp is to save money monthly throughout the year. To determine a monthly savings goal, divide your total summer camp costs by the amount of months you have until camp starts. If camp is quickly approaching and you’re feeling the budget crunch, you may want to start saving for next year’s costs once it’s back-to-school time so you can spread out your costs over a longer period of time.

Once you start saving, you’ll need a place to put it, right? When it comes to budgeting tips for summer camp, consider placing your cash in a dedicated account, which will keep it separate from your regular expenses and help you avoid tapping it for other reasons. “Then you can have your bank set up an auto draft [for the summer camp money] so it automatically goes into your account each month and you will have the money you need when summer rolls around,” Schisler says. If you use a Discover Online Savings Account for this purpose, you’ll also earn interest that can be put toward camp expenses.

“It’s much easier to set aside $30 a month than it is to come up with $300 to $400 at one time.”

– Heather Schisler, money-saving expert and founder of Passion for Savings

4. Find ways to fund your summer camp account

To boost cash in your summer camp savings account, consider asking relatives and family friends to gift your children cash for camp in lieu of birthday and holiday gifts, says Tracie Fobes of budget blog Penny Pinchin’ Mom. “If your child has his or her heart set on sleep-away camp, they may be willing to forgo a gift or two,” Fobes says.

Another budgeting tip for summer camp is to put your cashback rewards toward your budget for summer camp. For example, if you open a checking account with Discover—called Cashback Debit—you’ll earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 You can enroll to have that cashback bonus automatically deposited into your Discover Online Savings Account so it remains designated for camp costs (and can grow with interest).

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Lastly, if you don’t have your tax refund earmarked for another financial goal, you could use the windfall to kick-start your summer camp savings fund. Depending on the refund amount and your total camp costs, it could reduce your monthly summer camp savings goal significantly.

5. Reduce camp-related costs

Despite having your budget for summer camp in full view and planning in advance, camp can still be expensive. Here are some ways to save money on summer camp by cutting down on camp costs:

  • Ask about scholarships and grants: “Some camps offer scholarships or discounts for children and families,” Fobes says. Research your camp to see if they have anything similar to help offset—or even pay for—the cost of tuition.
  • Use a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA): A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account is a pre-tax benefit account that can be used to pay for eligible dependent care services. You can use this type of account to “cover dependent care [costs], and camp may qualify,” Fobes says.
  • Negotiate price: “Many people don’t think about negotiating the cost of summer camp, but it is possible,” Tayne says, and more and more camps are open to it.
  • See if there’s an “honor system”: Some camps have what’s known as an honor system, where the camp offers a range of costs, or tiered pricing, and parents can pay what they can comfortably afford. Every child enjoys the same camp experience, regardless of which price point, and billing is kept private.
  • Take advantage of discounts: Attention early birds and web surfers: “There are sometimes discounts offered when you sign up early or register online,” Fobes says.
  • Volunteer: If your summer schedule allows, “offer to work at the camp,” Fobes says. If you lend your services—perhaps for the camp blog or cleaning the camp house before the season starts—your child may be able to attend camp for free or a reduced rate.

Focus on the experience—not the extras

Don’t let summer camp costs become a family budget-buster. Plan ahead and look for money-saving opportunities and work your budget for summer camp into your annual financial plan.

To save money on summer camp, remember that you only need to focus on camp necessities. “Don’t spend a lot of extra money on new clothing, bedding, trunks or suitcases,” Schisler says. “Remember, summer camp is all about the experience, not the things.”

1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

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4 Considerations for Opening Your Child’s First Checking Account

Would your child benefit from a checking account? Check out these 4 tips to start them off on the right financial foot.

Children grow up. Fast. One day you’re buckling them into a car seat, and the next you’re handing them the keys. Like learning to drive or taking on a first job, managing a checking account is a big milestone that teaches responsibility and will help your child learn important financial habits.

Parents often ask: How do I open a checking account for kids? Many checking accounts, including Discover Cashback Debit, are for adults aged 18 and up, so you can help your child set up their own account when they are heading off to college or starting their career. If you’re interested in opening your child’s first checking account when they are younger, you could consider opening a joint checking account that you share with your youngster. Note that for some checking accounts, like Discover Cashback Debit, you have to be at least 18 years old to be added to the account as a joint accountholder.

“Is your teen interested in managing money, saving for different goals and spending on their own?” asks Kimberly Palmer, a banking expert for NerdWallet. If so, a checking account can be a great way to flex those skills and practice money management, she adds.

Opening your child's first checking account can help them learn valuable money management skills for life.

If you’re interested in setting up a checking account for kids—whether it’s a joint account you help manage or a solo account for your older teen—consider the following four tips:

1. Factor in fees

When opening your child’s first checking account, it’s important to understand all of the fees associated with the account and who is responsible for paying them, says Mia Taylor, an award-winning financial journalist who writes for The Simple Dollar and other finance sites. Your child may think you are covering the fees if you have a joint account, for example, so be clear on the parameters when you open the checking account.

If you’re wondering how to open a checking account for a kid going to college or starting their first job, “look for an account with no minimum balance fees or monthly balance fees,” Palmer says. That way, your child won’t have to worry about being penalized for having a low balance or stress about fees eating into earnings and spending money.

If you’re setting up a checking account for a kid heading off to college or moving to a new city, you’ll also want to consider the fees associated with withdrawing cash from out-of-network ATMs. You can use a bank’s ATM locator to ensure there are no-fee ATMs near their college campus or apartment.

2. Focus on features

Choosing the right checking account for your child’s lifestyle may mean finding an account that has features that support their needs and goals, as well as your preferences.

If you are opening your child’s first checking account and they are younger and sharing the account with you, you may want the ability to set limits on spending and the number of withdrawals. “Parents and teens may have different preferences for each of these features, so it’s important to talk about what you’re looking for ahead of time and compare the different options together,” Palmer says.

If you have a joint account with your child, you could also consider setting up email or text alerts for every transaction or every “large” transaction over a certain dollar amount. This may help you keep better track of your child’s spending habits and could help you have conversations about how to create a budget. Setting up a low balance notification may also be wise when opening your child’s first checking account to help avoid overdraft and insufficient funds fees.

“Parents and teens may have different preferences for each of these features, so it’s important to talk about what you’re looking for ahead of time and compare the different options together.”

– Kimberly Palmer, a banking expert for NerdWallet

When choosing a checking account, you may want to find a checking account that offers rewards. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 If your child is 18 or older, you can let them decide how the cashback should fit into their budget and financial goals.

3. Make mobile a priority

It’s no shock that today’s kids are experts at navigating a smartphone. As you make plans to set up a checking account for kids, be sure to consider whether the checking account has a mobile app for making deposits and tracking funds, Taylor says.

“Mobile deposits are a huge convenience factor for teens” since it allows them to deposit funds with the snap of a photo, Taylor says. Be sure to also research the app’s functionality (the easier, the better) and security, Palmer adds.

Tracking spending with a pen and paper may feel tedious to digital natives, so talk with your child about how they can sync their checking account with other budgeting and spending apps. Exchanging money with friends via digital wallet apps may also be of interest to your child, but you may want to consider providing guidelines when opening your child’s first checking account.

“Only send money to people you know, not to strangers,” Palmer suggests.

Make budgeting lessons part of the plan for opening your child's first checking account.

Even though digital wallets can be convenient for older teens, Taylor says you may not want to overcomplicate a checking account for a younger child. “Keep it simple in the beginning,” she says. “As teens get older, they can add those features on their own.”

4. Use the account as a teaching tool

Good financial habits are learned early and remembered for decades. That’s why the most important thing parents can do when opening your child’s first checking account is to use the account to have discussions about money, Palmer says.

“Ask them what they want to save for, what kinds of items they hope to buy and what—if any—money they would like to donate to a cause that is important to them,” Palmer says. “A checking account is a useful way to plan for future expenses and savings goals—all lessons that carry into adulthood.”

“Sit them down and show them what you’re doing with your own checking account so that you can pass on good values early on. The earlier you start with kids, the wiser they will be.”

– Mia Taylor, an award-winning financial journalist

A great way to pass on money management lessons is to show your children how you manage your own account.

“Sit them down and show them what you’re doing with your own checking account so that you can pass on good values early on,” Taylor says. “The earlier you start with kids, the wiser they will be.”

1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal®, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Venmo and PayPal are registered trademarks of PayPal, Inc.

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Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents

If you’re part of the sandwich generation, having a money management plan is crucial.

Everyone knows that raising kids can put a serious squeeze on your budget. Beyond covering day-to-day living expenses, there are all of those extras to consider—sports, after-school activities, braces, a first car. Oh, and don’t forget about college.

Add caring for elderly parents to the mix, and balancing your financial and family obligations could become even more difficult.

“It can be an emotional and financial roller coaster, being pushed and pulled in multiple directions at the same time,” says financial life planner and author Michael F. Kay.

The “sandwich generation”—which describes people that are raising children and taking care of aging parents—is growing as Baby Boomers continue to age.

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives. Aside from a time commitment, you may also be committing part of your budget to caregiving expenses like food, medications and doctor’s appointments.

Budgeting tips for the sandwich generation include communicating with parents.

When you’re caught in the caregiving crunch, you might be wondering: How do I take care of my parents and kids without going broke?

The answer lies in how you approach budgeting and saving. These money strategies for the sandwich generation and budgeting tips for the sandwich generation can help you balance your financial and family priorities:

Communicate with parents

Quentara Costa, a certified financial planner and founder of investment advisory service POWWOW, LLC, served as caregiver for her father, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, while also managing a career and starting a family. That experience taught her two very important budgeting tips for the sandwich generation.

First, communication is key, and a money strategy for the sandwich generation is to talk with your parents about what they need in terms of care. “It should all start with a frank discussion and plan, preferably prior to any significant health crisis,” Costa says.

Second, run the numbers so you have a realistic understanding of caregiving costs, including how much parents will cover financially and what you can afford to contribute.

17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives.

– The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Involve kids in financial discussions

While you’re talking over expectations with your parents, take time to do the same with your kids. Caregiving for your parents may be part of the discussion, but these talks can also be an opportunity for you and your children to talk about your family’s bigger financial picture.

With younger kids, for example, that might involve talking about how an allowance can be earned and used. You could teach kids about money using a savings account and discuss the difference between needs and wants. These lessons can help lay a solid money foundation as they as move into their tween and teen years when discussions might become more complex.

When figuring out how to budget for the sandwich generation, try including your kids in financial decisions.

If your teen is on the verge of getting their driver’s license, for example, their expectation might be that you’ll help them buy a car or help with insurance and registration costs. Communicating about who will be contributing to these types of large expenses is a good money strategy for the sandwich generation.

The same goes for college, which can easily be one of the biggest expenses for parents and important when learning how to budget for the sandwich generation. If your budget as a caregiver can’t also accommodate full college tuition, your kids need to know that early on to help with their educational choices.

Talking over expectations—yours and theirs—can help you determine which schools are within reach financially, what scholarship or grant options may be available and whether your student is able to contribute to their education costs through work-study or a part-time job.

Consider the impact of caregiving on your income

When thinking about how to budget for the sandwich generation, consider that caring for aging parents can directly affect your earning potential if you have to cut back on the number of hours you work. The impact to your income will be more significant if you are the primary caregiver and not leveraging other care options, such as an in-home nurse, senior care facility or help from another adult child.

Costa says taking time away from work can be difficult if you’re the primary breadwinner or if your family is dual-income dependent. Losing some or all of your income, even temporarily, could make it challenging to meet your everyday expenses.

“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement.”

– Quentara Costa, certified financial planner

When you’re facing a reduced income, how to budget for the sandwich generation is really about getting clear on needs versus wants. Start with a thorough spending review.

Are there expenses you might be able to reduce or eliminate while you’re providing care? How much do you need to earn each month to maintain your family’s standard of living? Keeping your family’s needs in focus and shaping your budget around them is a money strategy for the sandwich generation that can keep you from overextending yourself financially.

“Protect your capital from poor decisions made from emotions,” financial life planner Kay says. “It’s too easy when you’re stretched beyond reason to make in-the-heat-of-the-moment decisions that ultimately are not in anyone’s best interest.”

Keep saving in sight

One of the most important money strategies for the sandwich generation is continuing to save for short- and long-term financial goals.

“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement,” financial planner Costa says. “While the intention to put others before ourselves is noble, you may actually be pulling the next generation backwards due to your lack of self-planning.”

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Making regular contributions to your 401(k), an individual retirement account or an IRA CD should still be a priority. Adding to your emergency savings each month—even if you have to reduce the amount you normally save to fit new caregiving expenses into your budget—can help prepare you for unexpected expenses or the occasional cash flow shortfall. Contributing to a 529 college savings plan or a Coverdell ESA is a budgeting tip for the sandwich generation that can help you build a cushion for your children once they’re ready for college life.

When you are learning how to budget for the sandwich generation, don’t forget about your children’s savings goals. If there’s something specific they want to save for, help them figure out how much they need to save and a timeline for reaching their goal.

Ask for help if you need it

A big part of learning how to budget for the sandwich generation is finding resources you can leverage to help balance your family commitments. In the case of aging parents, there may be state or federal programs that can help with the cost of care.

Remember to also loop in your siblings or other family members when researching budgeting tips for the sandwich generation. If you have siblings or relatives, engage them in an open discussion about what they can contribute, financially or in terms of caregiving assistance, to your parents. Getting them involved and asking them to share some of the load can help you balance caregiving for parents while still making sure that you and your family’s financial outlook remains bright.

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