How to Break Down Your New Home Build Budget

Finding a pre-existing home is usually the top choice for homebuyers, but if you decide you want to build a brand new home, there are several budgetary items to consider. From buying the land to selecting materials, to finishings and furnishings, how much does building a home actually cost? Every state and city are different, but I’m going to show you a real life example of how to break down your new home build budget — with our current one in South Carolina!  

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What you see isn’t always what you get

Home builders try to lure you into their neighborhoods by advertising “Homes Starting At,” followed by a price that seems really attractive. That price is typically for the least expensive floor plan the developer is selling in that neighborhood, and may only include the home, not the land it sits on. There may be other floor plans that offer more bedrooms, bathrooms and other extras, which means the price will be higher for those floor plans. The base price of the home we picked was $436,900, but this was just for the structure; not the land or any other upgrades.

Location, location, location!

After you decide which house floor plan you like, you’ll then have to pick where you want your home to be located in the lots available. These lots are the plots of land that have been divided up in the neighborhood, and they may vary in size, shape, and location. Something to keep in mind for your new home build budget is the “must-haves” regarding location.

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Cannot wait to enjoy more of these sunsets at the lake.

We were drawn to our new neighborhood for a few reasons: the lots were bigger, there was more space between the houses, and it’s just outside where we currently live, which meant the homes were more affordable. The lots that were available ranged in price from $90,000 to the lot we picked at $150,000. Our lot was at the top of the price list because at .68 acres it was larger than many others, it was at the end of a cul-de-sac, and it backed up to the large lake, making it a more desirable location.

Putting down a deposit

After we selected our floor plan and land lot, we put down an earnest deposit of $5,000. This money was both an assurance that we were serious about this contract, and that the builder wouldn’t sell this lot to anyone else. At the end of the sale, the earnest money will be applied to the cash we’d need to bring on closing day. Keep in mind: while the earnest deposit locks you in, there are situations where you could be released from the sale and your money returned. Make sure you read the paperwork you sign!

(READ MORE: Why We Built a New Home, and What We Learned Along the Way)

Designing your home

You’ve picked your floor plan, lot, signed your paperwork, and paid your deposit; next stop on your new home build budget is the design center, where you’ll personalize your soon-to-be new home. Each home builder has a list of items already included as standard options. This could include everything from the number of bedrooms, flooring types, light fixtures, doors, windows, etc. But, this is the point in the process when you can add more bedrooms, bathrooms or bump outs, change the kitchen cabinets, add outlets, choose the trim, select doors and plumbing fixtures; anything and everything to make your house a home.

Walking through the model homes gave us a chance to better see design layouts of the home.

The extra design choices add up fast, and you may have to look at your new home build budget and decide what’s a must-have now versus something you can change later.

My advice? First, walk through any available models to get a feel for how things look first hand. Then, prioritize any structural items you’d want changed over something more cosmetic (ex: adding a bathroom versus upgraded countertops). Those more cosmetic items may add value to your home, but they’re easier to save up for as a future project; it’s much more of a hassle to change a home’s structure once it’s built. Once we added in all of our must-haves for our home, our total in the design center came to $91,000. 

Comparing pre-existing to the cost of building

When we compared what it would cost to buy a pre-existing for the same price, we could not find a pre-existing home that came close to everything we would be getting with our new home build budget. After all, we handpicked nearly every aspect of this home, including (and most importantly) the location. We would still be close enough to enjoy the beach and downtown Charleston, but have much more open space, proximity to water, and a home that wouldn’t need any updating. With the interest rates so low and the equity we have selling our current home, taking this leap made the most sense for our family. 

Have more questions about building a new home? is your one-stop resource for building, and budgeting for, a new home. From tips and advice, to checklists and step-by-step processes, the “How to Build” section is the perfect starting point for your new home build.

Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


Financial Planning for College Graduates: 11 Steps to Take Now

College graduation marks the beginning of what adulting truly looks like. Bye bye, student discounts. Hello, full-priced everything.

You had guidance from professors, support from your parents and the camaraderie of your fellow students in school. Now you’re on your own, and it may feel overwhelming to navigate post-grad life — especially managing your finances and dealing with the economic shakeup of the pandemic.

Don’t stress. We’ve got you.

11 Smart Money Moves for Recent College Grads

Here’s the practical advice we wish someone had shared with us when we were fresh out of school.

1. Don’t Succumb to Lifestyle Inflation.

Hopefully you’re earning more money than you did in school. Congrats! But use that salary increase for good, not for financial destruction.

Don’t give into the desire to buy all the things just because you’re making more money. Chances are you also have more bills. And now’s a perfect time to get in the habit of saving money for the future (but we’ll get more into that later).

As you settle into your life post-college, give yourself time to adjust. Don’t go out and purchase an apartment’s worth of new furniture all at once.

The key is to live within your means — or even below your means in order to build a nice cushion of savings. It might take time to figure out what that looks like. If you fail one budgeting method, give another a try. This isn’t a graded exam.

2. Treat Bill Due Dates Like Assignment Deadlines.

Gone are the days where you’d use loans or scholarship money to pay four months of room and board in full at the beginning of each semester. Now you’ve got multiple bills in one month, each to a different service provider.

Keeping track of when each bill is due is vital. Automating the process — either by using your bank’s auto-pay service or opting into auto-pay with your utility company or cell phone provider  — can be very helpful. If you want to be more conscious of what’s going out of your checking account, set up calendar alerts to remind you of each bill’s due date and make the payment manually.

Pro Tip

Set up one calendar alert a couple days before the due date for advanced warning and another alert the day the bill is due as a backup reminder in case you forgot to pay.

Make sure to factor in when you get paid. If your employer pays you weekly, biweekly or semi-monthly, budgeting the money you receive from each paycheck may be more useful than a monthly budget.

3. Get Used to Making Student Loans Payments.

If you borrowed money for college, it’s time to pay up.

Your loan provider will likely give you a six-month grace period before you have to start paying back your student loans. This gives you time to plan how you’ll tackle the repayment, but if you want to start paying your student loans back immediately, that’s even better.

When you’re setting up your post-grad budget, make sure you’re factoring your student loan payment as a necessary expense. Check with your loan provider to see how much your minimum payments will be. If the amount seems unmanageable, you might be able to get on an income-based repayment plan. You might also consider consolidating or refinancing your loans under a lower interest rate.

Pro Tip

You could get your loans paid off if your job has a student loan repayment program or through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program if you work in the public sector. Check if you’re eligible.

If you have trouble finding a job or otherwise fall into hardship, a loan deferment or forbearance will temporarily pause repaying your student loan. Typically, interest on the loan still might accrue during that period and you’d be left with more to pay back. Deferment or forbearance is usually only recommended as a last resort.

Due to the pandemic, however, the government has issued an interest-free forbearance on all federal student loans through Sept. 30, 2021. If you have private loans, contact your provider to see what options may be available to you.

A woman sits at a cafe on her laptop with coffee while holding her credit card.
Getty Images

4. Use Credit Cards Responsibly.

Credit cards can be tricky. On one hand, they can help you build a positive credit score or earn rewards points. But use them irresponsibly and you can wind up in a hole of debt.

A wise practice is to charge only what you know you can afford and pay your balance in full each month. You may want to start off with a secured credit card where you put down a deposit that serves your line of credit.

If you are paying off credit card debt, keep in mind those minimum payment amounts are not your friend. They’re the lowest you have to pay each month if you don’t want creditors hounding you, but they won’t get you out of the hole any time soon.

Paying extra toward your debt, even if it’s just $20 more, can significantly reduce how much you’ll pay in interest. If you actually read through your credit card statements, you should see a “minimum payment warning” section that explains how making only the minimum payment will raise your total debt and prolong the time it takes to pay it off.

This premise of paying more than the minimum is true for paying off student loans, car loans or even your mortgage.

5. Have a Plan If You’re Moving Back Home.

These days, there really isn’t any shame in moving back home after college. What you’ll regret, however, is moving back home without a plan.

If you revert back to your high school days when Mom and Dad shouldered all the financial responsibility of day-to-day life, you could be setting yourself up for a more challenging transition when you do finally leave the nest.

Discuss with your parents the expectations for covering household bills and expenses. If they insist on you not paying any rent, put aside what you would have paid to save up for your own place or build your emergency fund. Speaking of which …

6. You Need to Have an Emergency Fund.

No one likes to prepare for the worst, but having money saved up in the event of an emergency is a crucial part of being financially secure.

Experts say you should have between three to six months of expenses saved in an emergency fund. Those who watched their savings dry up during the pandemic may want to save even more. But even just $1,000 could be a lifesaver if your car breaks down or you need to fly out of town to attend a funeral.

You can automate your savings by directing a percentage of your paycheck to a savings account. Or use an app like Digit to save money without thinking. Digit’s algorithm analyzes your income and spending and determines safe amounts to transfer automatically to savings.

Even if you just stash $5 bills in a jar, start saving for emergencies now.

A woman laughs as she drives her car.
Getty Images

7. Create Sinking Funds to Save Up for the Big Stuff.

A sinking fund is a pool of money you regularly add to over time to make a large expense more manageable.

Don’t just limit saving to your emergency fund. When you’re ready to upgrade to a new laptop or you’re hit with your annual car insurance bill, you’re going to wish you had saved up for them gradually.

Setting up sinking funds for those infrequent expenses will prevent you from scrambling. You may want to open separate savings accounts for your different short-term savings goals. If you’re saving all your money in one account, record how much you’re contributing and what the running balance is for each goal.

8. Save for Retirement Now.

I know you’re just beginning your career. Retirement is probably one of the last things on your mind. But the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you’ll be.

Thanks to the power of compound interest, a 22-year old who saves $200 a month at a growth rate of 6% will have $371,428.72 by age 62. In comparison, someone who starts making those same retirement contributions at age 32 would have only $189,739.65 by age 62. That 32-year-old would have to be saving nearly $400 a month to have over $370,000 by age 62.

That’s a significant difference. Start now.

Opt into your job’s 401(k) plan as soon as you’re able. At the very least, you should contribute enough to meet your employer’s match.

If your job doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan, you can open an Individual Retirement Account or IRA. Even if you have a 401(k), you can open an IRA for additional savings. Check out this retirement saving guide for more insights to how you can save up for your future.

9. Avoid Being Underpaid.

Budgeting puts the focus on how much money you spend and how much you save. But the amount of money you make matters just as much.

Though your salary is likely to grow throughout your career, how much you make early on can have significant weight on your lifetime earnings. It’s for that reason states like California, New Jersey and a handful of others have outlawed employers asking about salary history on job applications. If you start off making less than others at your level in your field, you’re at risk of earning less in subsequent jobs.

This is why it’s important to make sure you’re being offered a fair, competitive salary from the beginning. Sites like Glassdoor and Payscale provide salary estimates for different fields and companies so you won’t accept a low-ball offer.

Pro Tip

Embrace the art of salary negotiation and counter-offer with confidence, even if the thought of it makes you sweat. Read up on how to negotiate your salary like a boss before your next interview.

When considering job offers, don’t forget to factor in the company’s benefits package and any other perks. It might be worth it for you to accept a position that pays a bit less but covers health insurance premiums, offers a generous 401(k) match and allows you to work remotely, lowering your transportation costs.

A woman looks at her budget
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

10. Base Your Budget Off Your Take-Home Pay.

Speaking of salaries, know that the salary offer you agree to won’t be the amount of money you take home. That’s your gross income. Base how much you can spend and save off your net income, which is what you have after deductions are taken out.

It’s common to see the following deducted from your paycheck:

  1. Taxes (federal, state and/or city)

  2. Medicare and Social Security (which might show up as FICA on your check)

  3. 401(k) contributions

  4. Premiums for health benefits

  5. Short/Long-term disability insurance

  6. Life insurance

If you haven’t received your first check yet, ADP has an awesome paycheck calculator that estimates your take-home pay after taxes and other deductions are taken out.

Some deductions — taxes, Medicare and Social Security — aren’t optional. You’ll have a choice to make when it comes to others, like retirement contributions and various insurance plans.

If you’re under 26, you can stay on your parents’ health insurance plan. But you may choose to opt into your own plan if you don’t live near your parents and all doctors in your area are out-of-network.

The value in having disability insurance is that you’d be able to receive a portion of your income in the event that you weren’t able to work. This could cover short-term absences from work, like recovering from childbirth, or long-term absences, such as a serious injury.

If you’re wondering whether you’d benefit from having a life insurance policy, this article can help shed some light.

11. Get a Side Hustle.

You don’t have to resign yourself to working 24/7, but there’s a lot to be said for picking up a side hustle when you’re still young and have ample time and energy.

Pro Tip

Find ways to monetize your interests and talents. For example, sell homemade cakes for special occasions if you love to bake. Check out this list of 25 top side hustles.

You can use the extra income to pay down student loans or other debt. Or you could put it toward building that emergency fund or saving up to go on nice vacations. Having a side gig also gives you income to lean on if you ever find yourself out of a job, like if your company downsizes.

Another advantage of having a side hustle is you could develop skills and make connections to help you leverage a promotion or a better-paying job.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Ten years after graduating college, she’s trying to make up for bad money decisions — namely maxing out her credit cards and not getting an earlier start on retirement savings.




Rules of Thumb for Estimating Apartment Utility Costs

Utilities are a hidden cost: You know you’ll need to plan for them, but when you’re looking for an apartment, they’re not at the top of your mind.

Utilities are a hidden cost: You know you’ll need to plan for them, but when you’re looking for an apartment, they’re not at the top of your mind. So, before you sign that lease, make sure you can pay all your rental expenses, not just rent. It won’t be much fun to sit in a cold apartment, hunting for a neighbor’s unsecured Internet connection, because you forgot to budget for utilities.

Here are some rough rules of thumb for estimating how much you should expect to pay for various utilities:


During winter months, or if you don’t use air conditioning, expect to pay $30-$50 a month for electricity. A lot of your bill will simply depend on how much you’re home, how much you watch television (tube TVs are big electricity drains), how efficient your refrigerator is and how careful you are about turning off lights.

Air conditioning

On average, expect to pay about $250-$300 per year for air conditioning. That said, air conditioning isn’t an evenly-distributed expense: Most people only use it about three to five months a year. And, in some places, like Minnesota or Maine, you may only use it a few times a summer, which makes it a much smaller expense.

If you live in a place with average weather, you’ll be running your A/C May-September and spending about $50-$80 a month extra on your electric bill. However, if you live in a really hot place, like Phoenix or Dallas, you’re going to be paying a lot more per month, for more months — $80-$90 a month (plus regular electricity costs), for eight months a year. So keep that in mind. Your silver lining is that you don’t have to worry much about heating costs.


If you are in a multi-unit building with radiators, there will almost certainly be no extra charge for heat. The landlord will pay the building’s heating bill in total and build that cost into the rent. However, if you and some friends team up and rent a house, you’ll be on the hook for keeping an oil burner going for heat and hot water, which could cost more than $300 a month. If you have gas or forced-air heating expect to pay at least $100 a month in the deep winter, though the cost can vary. One good way to find out what to expect is simply to ask the landlord or a previous tenant.

Cooking gas

In some buildings, if you have a gas range, you’ll have to pay for the natural gas that you use during cooking. (And in some buildings, the natural gas will also provide your heat.) With cooking, the cost is minimal — $15 a month at most, usually quite a lot less. It really all depends how much you cook at home.


Monthly, expect to pay about $45. Keep in mind that you can split the cost with as many other people as are using your connection, so if you have two roommates, that’s only $15 a person per month. The other thing to consider is bundling your Internet with your cable. You can often get a deal that way, if you decide you want cable.


This is an optional expense. With the new high-definition televisions, and their digital antennae, it’s easy to get great reception on network TV, and then you can use online streaming services for the rest of your needs. This will cost you about $20 a month, if you subscribe to two services.

If you want cable, look for a deal. They come along frequently and can save you some money. But be careful; companies often have add-ons like free premium channels for three months, which will then be charged to your account if you don’t cancel when the preliminary deal expires. So make sure to keep an eye on your account, so you know what you’re being charged for. While it’s nice to have cable, and you can usually find introductory deals that include cable and Internet for about $90 a month, it’s still a lot of money compared to using a streaming service or two for about $20 a month.

Renter’s insurance

Finally, always get renter’s insurance. You never know what may happen, and it’s very affordable, at only about $150 a year. If your apartment is burglarized, you’ll be very thankful you have it.

Total bill

If you skip the cable, your total utilities cost comes to roughly $200 a month. Keep in mind, though, that this is for the rental as a whole — if you have roommates, divide by the number of people living in the unit. Of course, if you have a very large apartment (say for four people or more) or you are renting a house, the heat, electricity and A/C will be higher, so add 20-30 percent to the estimate, and then divide.

As a rough rule of thumb, expect to spend on utilities an amount equal to about 20 percent of your monthly rent if you live alone, or about 10 percent of your monthly rent if you live with roommates.

Related: helps novice renters successfully navigate the first year of living on their own. The blog shares proven tips and tricks for everything from finding the perfect rental or roommate, to furnishing on a small budget or no budget, to dealing with landlords or roommate’s girlfriends.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.


Managing Your Money, Together

To learn more about how our Minters are achieving their financial goals, we reached out to everyday Mint users, just like you, to hear their stories. Whether it’s paying off student loans, or working toward buying a home, we’re so inspired by the dedication this community has shown in working toward your goals and dreams.

One of the Minters we connected with is Jordan. He shared with us how he’s used Mint to reach a number of his financial goals. Check out his #EmpowerMint story:

My wife and I have been interested in getting out of debt ever since the day we took on student loans. With the desire to pay those loans off, we strived to learn more about budgeting and personal finance.

As we grew in our journey, there were many financial things we questioned that felt ‘normal.’ We heard so many messages that emphasized the need to have the newest toys to be happy, that having debt is normal, and that most people live paycheck to paycheck. We realized that we didn’t feel comfortable with any of that, and that we found satisfaction in being content with what we have. 

Knowing that money issues were often a problem area for couples, my wife and I started using Mint shortly after we got married in 2010 to ensure transparency and partnership from the beginning. We found Mint to be a terrific tool for us to have a complete picture of our financial situation. During this time, I was working full-time and my wife was finishing up her last year in nursing school. Mint was an immediate help in keeping track of where our money was going and in starting budget discussions that have proved to be invaluable in our marriage. It also helped initiate discussions on both near-term and long-term goals, which have been so key in helping us plan both strategically and aspirationally. 

As time went on, Mint was instrumental in helping us achieve so many of our goals including:

  • Paying off student loans
  • Paying for grad school with cash
  • Preparing for kids
  • Starting a 529
  • Saving for a down payment
  • Buying a home

Our current goal is to complete our 15-year mortgage in under 5 years. A combination of Mint, aggressive savings, overtime shifts, and side hustles have helped put us in a position to achieve this goal within the next 12 months. Once that goal is complete, we’re excited to have a little fun and celebrate this accomplishment, and then prepare for the next chapter in our financial journey. 

In addition to this goal, we also have various net worth milestones we would like to achieve in the next 1-, 5-, and 10-year periods. We are very excited about the concept of financial independence, and would like to be in a position where we have the opportunity to focus our attention on things outside of work, such as further investing in our family and causes that are important to us. With Mint, we can see how the choices we’re making are helping move us closer to achieving these goals. 

Today, we check Mint on a daily basis in order to stay on top of our expenses and monitor for any fraudulent activity. Years ago, Mint helped me identify a fraudulent charge almost immediately, enabling me to notify our bank and get the issue resolved. Reviewing our expenses enables us to stay within our budget, catch fraudulent activity, and follow the ‘every dollar’ budgeting rules that have been so helpful for us. In addition, linking our accounts has automated what would otherwise be a very manual and time-intensive process. 

I have also loved using the trends feature to have full visibility into exactly how our money is being spent and to help ensure we’re always partnering as we work towards our financial goals, rather than feeling like one person is pulling the other along. We can budget with transparency and not feel any need to hide transactions for personal expenses and rewards or small splurges. 

The trends feature has also allowed us to get a sense of what our typical spending has been in different categories. We periodically review our budget, and being able to easily see our historical spending in different categories has helped us set realistic targets, as well as track our progress when we are attempting to change habits. Lastly, being able to see changes in our net worth over the years has been inspiring, as we have been able to see in real-time how decisions to save or forego immediate gratification can have long-term benefits.

Beyond that, we have found a great deal of joy in doing things ourselves, whether it is cooking meals for the week, doing our own car maintenance, or trying to fix something ourselves before calling someone. Additionally, the satisfaction has compounded as we’ve seen that making these choices has helped us not only learn new things, but also in achieving our goals. 

Knowing what we know now, we’re really excited to pass these values on to our kids, and we’re happy to discuss them with anyone who asks. Additionally, I can see a ‘life’ after work that involves volunteering in some form in the personal finance field, whether that is teaching folks about budgeting or just encouraging them in their financial journey.

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Guide to retirement plans

Couple using a calculator to budget.

Note: If you are
considering retirement or beginning your financial planning for retirement,
please talk to a financial adviser for information fitting your particular
circumstances and needs.

According to a 2019 study from Northwestern Mutual, around 1 in 5 Americans have $5,000 or less in retirement savings, and close to half believe they’ll outlive their savings. Even so, only around 45% say they’ve acted to solve this issue.

One reason many people may avoid planning for retirement is that the sheer number of retirement plans and options can be daunting.

Differentiating Between Retirement Plans

There are a variety of retirement plans available, each
with their own benefits and potential drawbacks. You might consider working
with a financial advisor to get started. Whether retirement is close at hand or
decades away, take some time to create a retirement savings plan to support
your future goals.

Defined Contribution Plans

Defined contribution plans are employer- or organization-sponsored. That means they’re offered as a benefit to employees who can contribute pretax dollars from each paycheck into the account. Employers may match those contributions up to a certain amount, which can lead to greater savings.

Defined contribution plans are offered as a benefit to employees who can contribute pretax dollars from each paycheck into the account.


401(k) plans are defined contribution plans offered by employers in the private sector. The IRS limits how much can be contributed to 401(k) plans each year. As of 2020, the maximum amount is $19,500 for most people.

Money in a 401(k) may be available for use through a 401(k) loan prior to retirement. Ordinarily, individuals who take money out of their 401(k) early would pay a 10% tax penalty. With the passage of the CARES Act, however, penalty fees on 401(k) retirement accounts and other employee-sponsored accounts and personal retirement accounts have been changed.


A 403(b) plan is similar to a 401(k), but it’s for employees in the public sector and those working for tax-exempt organizations, such as teachers or clergy members. Annual contribution limits for 403(b) are also $19,500 as of 2020.


A 457(b) plan is also similar to a 401(k), but it’s for people who work for local and state governments, such as police officers. The annual contribution limit for 457(b) plans is also $19,500 as of 2020 for most people.

IRA Plans

While 401(k) plans are commonly known, they’re not the only option for saving for retirement. IRA plans are individual retirement plans. These are plans that individuals can contribute pretax dollars to, but employers are not involved and there isn’t a match.


As of 2020, individuals can invest up to $6,000 a year in pretax dollars into this retirement account. Those over the age of 50 can make an extra $1,000 in annual contributions for the purpose of catching up on retirement savings.

Taxes aren’t paid on IRA funds until they’re withdrawn as income during retirement. Individuals must begin taking minimum required deductions from IRA funds at age 70.5 if they were born before July 1, 1949, and at age 72 if they were born after June 30, 1949. Taking withdrawals before retirement age can result in penalties.

As of 2020, individuals can invest up to $6,000 a year in pretax dollars into traditional IRAs.

Roth IRA

Roth IRAs are similar to traditional IRAs and come with
the same contribution limits. However, contributions are not pretax, and there
are no taxes on withdrawals made in retirement. Roth IRAs also don’t come with
minimum required deductions in retirement, which can allow people to hang on to
investments longer.


SIMPLE stands for Savings Incentive Match Plan for
Employers. These plans combine some features of 401(k) and IRA plans to create
an option for very small businesses or self-employed individuals.

Contribution limits are $13,500 annually as of 2020, with catch-up contributions capped at $3,000 each year. Employers are typically required to make at least a small match of up to 3%. SIMPLE IRAs do come with a hefty tax penalty of up to 25% if someone makes a withdrawal within two years of setting up the plan.


SEP stands for Simplified Employee Pension. It’s an IRA that’s set up and funded by an employer. Employers can contribute up to 25% of an employee’s compensation or $57,000 max annually.

Spousal IRA

To contribute to an IRA, someone must earn an income.
But the IRS provides a provision for spouses who don’t work via a spousal IRA.
If one spouse is drawing an income and the couple files federal returns as
married, filing jointly, the other spouse can have their own IRA. All the
standard rules for the IRA type—whether traditional or Roth—apply.

Rollover IRA

A rollover IRA is simply a traditional or Roth IRA that
receives the funds from an employer-sponsored plan in a rollover. It allows
individuals to move funds from a 401(k) or another sponsored plan into a
different investment vehicle should the person leave employment or otherwise
want to migrate their funds. Typically, once you open a rollover IRA, the rules
for the IRA type take over as far as contributions and withdrawals are

Defined Benefit Plans

A defined benefit plan is typically a pension plan. It’s
employer-sponsored, and the company manages any investments related to it. The
company makes a promise to provide pension payments to retirees after their
employment service is over. Pension payment amounts and lengths can be based on
a variety of factors, including length of work service, level of service and
salary history.

Cash-Balance Plans

Cash-balance plans offer an option for lifetime
benefits once retired. During employment years, the employer adds a certain
amount each year to a fund, which is typically calculated as a percentage of
someone’s salary. The company manages the investment and any profits or losses.

Upon retirement, the former employee receives a pension benefit as agreed upon under the plan. Participants can typically take an annuity option, which pays benefits out over time, or a lump sum that can be reinvested in an IRA.

Pension Plans

Pension plans can work somewhat like 401(k) plans, with
both an employer and an employee making contributions. However, the employee does
not have any risk in the investment. They are guaranteed a pension payout
according to their benefits contract regardless of whether the investment gains
or loses. The risk to the employee is that the company’s portfolio might perform
so badly that all pensions must be diminished or that the company files for

Money Purchase Plans

A money purchase plan is a pension plan that allows the
employee to make investment choices based on options set up by the employer.
Only employers contribute to the plan.

Guaranteed Income Annuities

Annuities are similar to insurance in how you buy and
pay for them. You pay a premium for a set period of time. Your premium payments
are invested by the insurance company.

When you reach retirement, you receive a guaranteed annual
income according to your annuity plan. Annuity payments can be made monthly,
quarterly or annually, and with a lifetime annuity, they continue throughout
your retirement.

Cash Value Life Insurance Plan

A cash value life insurance plan is a type of life
insurance that builds cash value over time as you pay premiums. Once you meet
all your premium obligations—which might require you to pay premiums for a long
period of time, such as 20 years—you are guaranteed the life insurance coverage
for the rest of your life. You can also draw on any cash value that the plan
has accrued to pay for retirement expenses or other needs.

Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans

Nonqualified deferred compensation plans let employees
earn compensation but not receive it—or pay taxes on it—in the year that the
service was provided. Instead, they elect to receive the compensation at a
later time and can delay it even until retirement.

Retirement Resources

The sheer number of retirement plans can make it confusing to choose one, and that doesn’t even account for questions such as how much you need for retirement or when you can retire. Educating yourself about your retirement is the first step in protecting it.

Start your retirement planning with some resources, such as AARP’s retirement calculator. It helps you understand how much more you need to save and when you can potentially reach that goal.

The government also provides a basic primer for money management and retirement, which can be a good starting point. Talking to a financial advisor, a CPA or an attorney who normally handles retirement planning can also be a good idea.


Here’s Our Best Advice on Teaching Kids About Money

As parents, it can be overwhelming to think about everything we need to teach our kids — whether it’s showing them how to cross the street safely, introducing them to the alphabet or teaching them to ride a bike.

But unfortunately, money still seems to be a taboo educational topic — even among families.

A survey conducted by The Penny Hoarder found that among those who didn’t talk about money management at home, almost a third earn less than $50,000. But for those who did talk about money, just 18% earn less than $50,000 a year.

And 40% of people who did not discuss finances growing up currently have no savings at all. That figure drops by more than half among those who did receive early financial education at home.

And unfortunately, kids often don’t get to learn money management topics in school, either. Only 21 states require personal finance education in order to graduate high school, according to the Council for Economic Education.

That leaves it up to parents when it comes to teaching kids about money. Discovering how much you know about money — you can test your own knowledge with this handy financial literacy quiz — is an important first step.

But don’t put off teaching your child about finances until you think you have all the answers.

Fortunately, even if you aren’t a financial whiz, we’re here to help so you can look like the expert — at least in your kids’ eyes.

5 Ways to Teach Kids About Money

Teaching your kids about money lessons is essential for raising adults who are comfortable talking about and handling their money

By following these tips, you can create a solid financial foundation for your kids (and you might learn a thing or two along the way).

1. Talk About Family Finances

We’re not suggesting that you study your financial spreadsheets with your kids for a family fun night, but your children can’t get comfortable talking about money until they know you’re comfortable talking about it.

By setting up a consistent family budget meeting — you don’t have to call it that if the b-word scares/bores everyone — your gang can get in the habit of discussing topics like how much money it takes to keep your household functioning and why it’s important to plan for big purchases.

If kids get the opportunity to give their input — and no, they don’t get the deciding vote, even if they outnumber you — it will empower them to take responsibility for how the household spends its money.

It can start with something simple like: We have $50 extra spending money this month. Would you rather go to a drive-in theater or save the money so that next month we could go on a camping trip?

2. Show Them Why Saving Pays

Your child’s method of saving will evolve as they get older, but teaching the basic value of setting aside money will help them avoid the temptation to make an impulse buy each time they have money in their hands.

Use Real Dollars and Coins

Using physical cash and coins is great for helping younger children understand the concept, as it allows them to see how their nickels and dimes (and dollars) can really add up.

You can start out by teaching kids to budget their money — consider using one piggy bank for savings, another for spending and a third for giving.

Open a Bank Account

When they’re ready, you can take the next step by opening a bank account for your child. Many banks have accounts specifically for minors if their parents also bank there, which can help your children save on fees that banks may charge for regular accounts.

Pro Tip

If your child values something more than money — like screen time — use that to help reinforce the savings concept. Give them an “allowance” of minutes that they can work to earn more of.

By bringing them along to a physical location to open their bank account, you’ll help your kids become more comfortable dealing with financial tools and institutions. That way, banks won’t seem as intimidating when your kids open their own accounts as adults.

Teach Them About Compound Interest

Additionally, use their savings accounts as an opportunity to teach kids about compound interest — a basic financial concept that explains how your money can grow by earning interest on the interest.

If the numbers on the account don’t pile up fast enough to impart the lesson (or you need a little more help understanding the concept), check out this video about how compound interest works — it uses candy to teach the concept in a much more appetizing way.

3. Let Them Learn the Value of Their Money

Getting your children to value their money can give them a head start on money management skills.

It starts with understanding where the money comes from (the ATM doesn’t count).

Whether you pay them an allowance, they receive money as gifts from relatives or they’re making their own money (yes, even a lemonade stand business counts), your children will better understand how much a dollar is worth if they learn how to budget their money early on.

Pro Tip

If you have a teen who’s thinking about bigger purchases like a car or college tuition, let them use their summer break to make extra money — check out these ideas for jobs for teens.

Accounting for each dollar allows a child to learn decision-making skills that will prepare them for later in life when they’re parcelling out their paycheck.

Ask them questions like: Is it worth doing an extra chore to have their pick in the candy aisle at the grocery store? By giving them the power to make that decision, your children will be able to apply the same money concepts when deciding as an adult whether it’s worth working an extra shift to buy those new shoes or taking on a side gig to pay to build an emergency fund.

4. Don’t Let Investing Be Only for the Rich

Your kids don’t need to become the next Warren Buffett to learn the value of investing. And they don’t need to be rich to start (and neither do you).

No matter what their age, kids can learn about growing wealth by investing a small portion of their money. We recommend starting with a very small amount since there is, of course, a risk that their investment could lose value. It’s a tough lesson, but one that’s easier to accept if your child lost a week’s allowance rather than a lifetime savings.

And investing doesn’t require a large cash outlay to start, especially if you work with a brokerage that allows you to open a custodial account and invest in fractional shares.

For just a few dollars, your kids can pick a couple of companies that make their favorite toys or movies, then check the stock price each week to see how their investment is faring.

If your family is the competitive type, let every member invest in a different stock and see whose stock grew the most at the end of a year.

5. Don’t Make Debt a Four-Letter Word

You want to protect your kids from all the bad things, so if you don’t talk about debt, they won’t end up in it, right?

Maybe. But probably not. Giving them the tools to understand debt is a better way to avoid bad debt and responsibly handle the good debt that they’ll face in their lifetime.

A woman goes her finances with her child.
Getty Images

Differentiate Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

So how can you teach kids the difference between bad and good debt? Remember these two factors:

  1. What’s the interest rate?

  2. What’s the value of the item they’re going into debt for?

As a general rule, if you’re borrowing money at a higher rate than you can earn by investing, that’s bad. The S&P 500 has a historical average annual rate of 7%, so that’s typically the benchmark experts use for deciding how much of a return you could expert on an investment.

For example, if a credit card charges 18% interest, you can’t reasonably expect to get those kinds of returns on investments, so that’s a bad debt. However, if you get a mortgage with a 3% interest rate, there’s a good chance you could invest that money and make more in interest.

It’s also important to teach kids that bad debt vs. good debt involves the types of things and events that they’d want to use the credit for. Borrowing money to buy a candy bar? Bad debt. Borrowing money to invest in a mower so you can start making money cutting the neighbor’s lawns? Good debt (since they’ll in theory be using that borrowed money to make more money).

Get Real About Student Loans

One of the biggest decisions kids will have to make early on in regards to debt is whether to take out student loans. Start talking to your teens early about how student loan debt could affect their lives after college.

Although it can be a very personal decision, encourage them to consider the costs and benefits of student loan debt. For instance, is the private, out-of-state school with the gorgeous campus worth the debt burden if they’re getting an education degree?

Pro Tip

If the plan is for your teenagers to cover the cost of tuition themselves, help them discover the different options for paying for college — besides their parents and student loans.

Teaching your kids early about how to use debt and credit lines responsibly — perhaps by adding them as an authorized user — will let them see the benefits of building a solid financial foundation.

Start Small

And if all this is a little much for your youngest kids to understand, you can introduce this money lesson with one of these debt free charts.

Start by deciding on a bigger purchase your child wants but doesn’t have enough cash for yet — but small enough that they can “pay it off” in a few weeks or months. Each time they make a “payment” to you, they can color in another section of the chart.

By the end, they’ll have a better understanding of what it means to pay off debt, and you’ll have another piece of art to hang on the refrigerator. Win-win.

TIffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Dana Sitar contributed to this post.




Mint Success: Going From Carrying Debt to Paying it Off

Once upon a time, Scott Henderson used credit cards like “free money,” maxing out his balances and getting cash advances to pay for wedding expenses – then carrying those balances forward monthly, paying the only the minimum.

He wasn’t alone: 34% of Americans carry credit card balances vs. paying the cards off every month (and 35% of Mint users do the same).

But once Scott, a peer mentor at University of Utah, and his new wife took a good look at how this debt was affecting their financial picture, everything changed. They used Mint to set their goal and keep track, and the rest is history (and the future).

What kind of credit card debt did you have before you started paying them off?

When we started paying down our credit card debt, we had four credit cards. One of them was maxed out to nearly $1,500, and the other cards were nearly maxed out as well. I didn’t fully understand how a credit card worked before I got married, other than it was pretty much free money to me. When I decided to get married, I made cash advances to pay for my wife’s wedding ring and maxed out all of my cards. I later found out the many reasons why that was a bad idea.

What led to your decision to pay off your credit card debt?

A few months into marriage, my wife asked me why I had been carrying such high balances on my credit card. I said, “because of you!” That’s when we decided to get serious.

How did you use Mint to help?

When we realized we were carrying more debt than we could handle (and it was only getting worse), we decided to set a goal in Mint to pay down our credit card debt. It let us know that if we were to pay only the minimum payment each month, we would never pay off our debt. Instead, we put as much money toward our credit card debt each month as we could manage and were able to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time.

How long did it take for you to pay off all the credit card debt?

It was the first year of our marriage of sacrificing things to pay off our balance completely. But one year into marriage it felt extremely good to know we no longer had credit card debt. Now that we pay off our balance each month, it is still easy to let it get out of control, but we dedicated ourselves to never carry a balance again.

How does Mint help you now?

Checking Mint every few days helps me to know what categories I am spending the most on, my monthly average amount of expenditures, upcoming bills, my credit card balances all in one place, and so many other things.

How do you use credit cards now?

We put everything on our credit card to build rewards, points, miles and increase our credit score. My wife and I pay off the balance every week and before the credit card companies report to the credit bureaus. The greatest part about it is now that we don’t carry a balance we don’t have to pay interest.

How has your lifestyle changed since going from balance carrier to balance payer?

We feel we have more freedom to do the things we want to do. We don’t pay for things we did last year that we don’t care about anymore. Now that [the debt] is paid off, we are able to put all that money towards our first home.

Now that we are balance payers, we have a budgeting system that we set up where each time we get paid, we are so excited that we both argue about who gets to break up the money into the different accounts.

You can be like Scott

We can identify with the excitement of budgeting and tracking goals! Next month we will look at how recent college graduates or people just starting out in their careers use mint to build a promising financial future.

Are you one of those? We would like to hear your story! Contact us at with “Mint User Story” in the subject.

Kim Tracy Prince is a Los Angeles-based writer who also paid off her credit card debt after getting married! She recommends doing it before, if you can.

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‘Broke Millennial Talks Money’ Review: My 4 Major Takeaways

As much as I wish talking about money wasn’t so taboo, the fact of the matter is that too many of us simply avoid talking about money with the people in our lives.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
Privacy Policy
But there are ways to discuss money without mentioning any dollar figure. In the book, Lowry says chatting with friends about housing prices or child care costs can lead to bigger money talks in the future. Getting context clues about how a significant other spends money can be helpful to gauge whether you’re on the same page financially.

4 Things I Learned from ‘Broke Millennial Talks Money’

“It’s just really important for us to excavate all of our deep-rooted feelings about money so that we also can understand how and why we make the decisions that we often subconsciously are making about money.”
When talking to your parents about their retirement plans, for example, you might start off by asking what they’d like their retirement to look like. In later conversations, you can follow up by asking how much money they have saved up and whether they have the proper estate planning documents in place.
While it’s very useful to be able to talk about finances with the people in your life, it’s also important to have positive money talks with your inner self.

1. Talking About Money Has Real Financial Impact

Ready to stop worrying about money?
If you’ve gone most of your life avoiding tough money conversations, you may wonder what’s the big deal when it comes to talking about finances with others.
Keeping the conversation ongoing can help it feel less uncomfortable over time. If you’re not sure how to kick off a money discussion, Lowry includes dozens of sample scripts.
Sharing how much money you make, how much debt you have or how much you have saved up for retirement puts you in a vulnerable position. The fear of being judged about those numbers is what makes many people reluctant to talk about finances altogether.
Another strategy Lowry discusses in the book is using the over/under method when asking someone about salary. Instead of requesting the exact figure, you can ask if they’re making over or under a certain amount.
I had the opportunity to read Lowry’s book and chat with her via Facebook Live. Here are my major takeaways.

2. You Can Talk Money Without Giving Exact Dollar Amounts

If you’re looking for the solution to how to successfully talk to your coworkers, your manager, your significant other, your parents or your friends about money, “Broke Millennial Talks Money” is the book you’ll want to read.
Discussing money can be tricky. Even as someone who writes about finances for a living, I’ve struggled with this in my personal life.
The first chapter of the book leads with a great example. A negotiation expert poses this question: “How much are you willing to pay to avoid an awkward conversation?”

3. Talking About Money Can Take Practice

It’s a rhetorical question, but it really gets you thinking. By choosing not to have a conversation about money, you could end up losing out.
Many of us have been raised to believe that money and finances are not topics to bring up in polite company.
While “Broke Millennial Talks Money” offers much advice you’ll want to bookmark, here are the top four things that resonated with me when reading this book.

4. Having a Positive Money Mindset is Key

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The thing is: Being able to successfully navigate money conversations can have a real impact on your bottom line.
But frankly, I think it’s time we abandon that line of thinking.
Negative self-talk can lead to issues like imposter syndrome and scarcity mindset, which can sabotage your pathway to financial success.
Talking about money with others might feel uncomfortable or awkward, but it can be so beneficial. Financial expert Erin Lowry, the founder of the Broke Millennial series, focused her latest book — “Broke Millennial Talks Money” — on navigating tough financial talks.
We often pay for that avoidance. We rack up debt trying to keep up with friends. We work at companies for years never knowing about wide pay disparities. We get married without being on the same page financially with our significant other. And we wait until our parents are on their deathbeds to find out if they have a will or life insurance.

Why I Recommend Reading ‘Broke Millennial Talks Money’

“Broke Millennial Talks Money” breaks down how to have these crucial conversations about finances. Almost everyone can relate to one of the situations discussed in this book. Best of all, it’s written from the perspective of someone who wants to help make these money conversations less awkward — and judgment-free.
“Most people start to have their relationship with money coded between the ages of about 8 to 12… so it can be really hard to undo some of the mindset as you age,” Lowry shared during her virtual chat with The Penny Hoarder.
Having a healthy money mindset means we’ll make better decisions with our finances and may even feel more confident to discuss money with our loved ones. Lowry put it best during our live Q&A. “You can do everything right to build your financial house,” she said, “but if you cannot communicate effectively, if you can’t set healthy boundaries and if you do not know how to engage in these tough financial conversations, it’s going to start to slowly crumble the foundation that is your financial house.” <!–


Because talking about money can be awkward, you may think it’s better to rip off the Band-aid and put everything on the table in one conversation. However, Lowry says it’s fine to let money talks be something that evolves over time.

Erin Lowry of Broke Millennial on Navigating Tough Money Talks

Talking about money with your loved ones can feel uncomfortable. It can be awkward. It can be so difficult that you just avoid bringing up the subject altogether.

But you’re not doing yourself any favors by putting off the conversation. You’ll have a hard time saving up for a house with your partner if you can’t confront each other’s poor spending habits. You don’t want weekly outings with friends raising your credit card debt because you don’t want to mention you’re on a tight budget.

Erin Lowry, a financial expert and founder of Broke Millennial, focused her latest book “Broke Millennial Talks Money” on the topic of navigating tough financial conversations. She recently joined The Penny Hoarder for an online discussion where she shared tips and advice.

The following is an abridged version of that conversation, edited for length and clarity.

10 Questions With Erin Lowry of Broke Millennial

1. Why is it important for folks to be open to talking to people in their lives about money, even when it’s awkward?

You can do everything right to build your financial house, but if you cannot communicate effectively, if you can’t set healthy boundaries and if you do not know how to engage in these tough financial conversations, it’s going to start to slowly crumble the foundation that is your financial house. It’s useful that we learn how to navigate awkward money conversations, because they’re going to keep happening through our entire lives.

2. Why do you think it is so taboo to talk about money?

Judgment. I really think that that’s the word that sums it up. Oftentimes, we are fairly comfortable talking about money with total strangers. I’ve had many — pre-pandemic — fun conversations on the airplane with people about their financial lives, especially once they find out what I do. And there’s no risk there. I’m probably never going to see them again, so people get really vulnerable and open. On the flip side, I’ve had friends and family members not as willing to be open because there is this feeling of: “Oh, am I going to be judged?”

3. What should you do if you want to have a money talk with someone but they’re very hesitant?

It depends on who the person is and why you’re trying to initiate the conversation. There’s a big difference when you and your partner are getting really serious and about to move in together. That’s then a necessity to be having the financial conversation.

But every so often I get messages that are like: “My best friend’s pretty crappy with money and I want to have a conversation with her about how to be better.” Well, listen, if she doesn’t come to you, if she doesn’t ask, it’s — at the end of the day — not necessarily your business to offer guidance and advice.

You really need to allow this to be a very collaborative conversation. Maybe you share something about your own success and that can open the door to being asked questions to initiate more conversation. But sometimes, it is very much a “not your business” situation and if you overstep boundaries, people are also going to get uncomfortable.

4. How do you know when you’re in the right place in your relationship to start talking about finances?

While I would love it if everybody on the first date was super comfortable baring it all, that’s just not realistic. What you can do is to start taking notice of context clues that you’re being given along the way. This includes comments that get made, ideas for how much you should be spending on dates or trips or presents to each other, where that person lives and what kind of car they drive. All of these are giving you signals about how they value things, how they spend their money and either how much they’re earning or potentially how much debt they’re in.

Beyond that basic level, you should begin to get fully transparent with each other about money at the point where you look at that person and think, “I could spend the rest of my life with you.” When you realize that it’s that level of seriousness, you need to have the full conversation. That means sharing all of the information: salaries, credit scores, history of relationships with money, debt loads, investments, absolutely everything. It doesn’t have to happen all in one conversation. It can be an evolving conversation over time.

The other thing I really want you to know about your partner is their triggers when it comes to spending money — what makes them uncomfortable, what makes them want to spend, what their emotional relationship with money is and what they grew up around. Not just what their socioeconomic background was but how was money talked about and treated in their family, because that is eventually going to rear its head in your relationship dynamics.

5. Should you wait to get married when you’re both in debt?

No, not necessarily. My husband had over $50,000 worth of student loans when we got married. You need to understand the type of debt that it is and the laws in the state that you’re getting married.

I’m a big advocate of the prenup myself, so I do think it’s really important to consider going through the prenuptial agreement process. We truly need to reframe how we think of prenups and think of it more like marriage insurance.

A lot of times when I say the word, people get triggered, like: “Oh, you don’t love or you don’t trust your spouse.” No, that’s not true. Everybody getting married has a prenup. It’s the default laws of your state. If you create your own prenuptial agreement, you’re basically creating a slightly different system that you feel would be a fair and equitable division of assets or any debt.

Now all that being said, if you do have debt, depending on state laws and when the debt was created, you’re not necessarily liable for your spouse’s debt. I do think that if you are going to wait, it could be a decade or more before you’re then able to get married if you’re waiting for someone to be debt free.

And the other thing is I don’t think of debt as a red flag for a relationship. What is a red flag is how the debt is being handled today. If there’s credit card debt from five years ago, maybe there was a medical emergency, maybe something happened or maybe they just weren’t good with money at that phase in their life. But now they have a plan and they’re paying it off. If instead there’s a continual cycle of creating debt, that is a red flag.

6. What advice would you give about how to compromise in a romantic relationship before things lead to a bigger money fight?

One of my favorite pieces of advice that an expert told me when I was writing “Broke Millennial Talks Money” was that it’s okay to just let a person take the win sometimes. Say you and your husband want to buy a couch. You want to spend $3,000, and he wants to spend $1,000. Well, $2,000 would be the compromise, meeting in the middle. Instead, it could be that you get to spend the $3,000 on the couch and then at another point, he’s going to get to take the win on a money conversation.

The other thing, too, when you’re getting into a fight about money — especially with purchases that you want to make — is to come back to the original goals that you have set. And if you haven’t set any as a couple, take a minute to do so.

Pro Tip

Develop strong money goals by making them SMART goals.

Your goals are the north star of your entire financial plan. Anytime there is a big debate about how you’re going to spend money, you need to look at how this is going to have a ripple effect on everything else you want to achieve and that can help solve the problem.

7. Do you have any advice for people on navigating cultural norms when talking about money with family?

I do think it’s really critical that we start to have conversations early on about what is the expectation — particularly if you are living in America and you’re married to somebody who has a different cultural expectation of how to handle aging parents or a dependent sibling or a sick relative.

Also, you need to talk to your parents. You need to ask them early on what they want. For some parents, it’s going to be obvious that they expect to live with you in their later years if that’s your cultural norm. You probably have an idea that’s the expectation, but it’s still good to have a chat about it.

For others, your parents might tell you don’t worry about it. Just because they tell you that, doesn’t mean you’re not going to worry about it. I think a really easy way to turn the conversation around is to ask about what they see their retirement looking like. Over time though, it does need to start to become more of a real conversation about the finances.

8. How do you bounce back from a falling out with someone about money?

I think that depends on how necessary — and this is going to sound a little harsh — it is to bounce back from it. What one of the financial therapists in the book said, pertaining to friendship dynamics, is that not everyone is a lifelong friend. I do think that an important thing to consider is that there are friends who will be close friends with you only through seasons of your life. That doesn’t mean that anytime there’s any difficulty or strife, you say, “I’m out!” But it is an important thing to keep in mind.

9. How do you advocate for yourself when you and a friend have different values when it comes to spending money but you want to do things together?

Provide an explanation. It really does help provide context for why you keep saying no or keep pushing back. Now, just because you have different values doesn’t give you the right to belittle their values.

Let’s use an example of going out to brunch. Bottomless brunch is going to cost like 50 bucks and you don’t want to spend that much. You can say, “I really want to spend time with you but I’ll be honest, I don’t want to pay bottomless brunch money right now because I am trying to [insert thing here]. How about we grab a bagel and go for a walk in the park? Or how about you come over and I’ll cook us some brunch?” Provide some sort of alternative solution for the fact that you’re saying no.

Pro Tip

This list of 100 free things to do can help you find an activity to do together that won’t cost any money. 

Now remember, they’re free to do whatever it was they initially planned to do. Just because you’re removing yourself from the equation doesn’t mean that they have to adjust plans. Providing that alternative, however, maybe you can just set up plans for another time.

Another thing you can do is join later. I really love this for birthday dinners and splitting the check. You could join for dessert after or for a drink after. You’ll miss that whole part that’s going to cost the most amount of money. Just tell your friend you’re going to do that ahead of time.

10. Do you think this experience of living through the pandemic will help people become more comfortable talking about money?

I really hope so. I do feel that we certainly have had an unprecedented experience and unlike other recessions prior, most people did not have any level of personal culpability for what happened to them.

You could have had your financial house in totally great shape. You could have had six to nine months — even a year’s worth of emergency savings — but if you worked in an industry that got totally shuttered during the pandemic, that’s not on you.

I do think that, hopefully, people will feel slightly more comfortable having conversations about getting into credit card debt or being behind on bills or their credit score taking a hit because truly it wasn’t their fault in a lot of ways. So that might give us the flexibility to have less judgment wrapped up in some of these financial conversations.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.