12 Things to Do When You Get a Raise at Work

Getting a raise always feels great. It’s tangible proof that you’re good at what you do and your hard work has been recognized.

But what should you do with the extra income? While most of us can’t help but daydream about all the new things we plan to buy, it’s important to take a close look at your personal finances before going on a spending spree.

That way, you’ll have a clear idea of how much your pay raise actually amounts to, what your financial priorities are, and how to make smarter investments and purchases with your additional income.

How to Handle a Salary Increase

When you first get a raise, it’s tempting to make a big, celebratory purchase. But before you do, there are some steps you should take to ensure you’re making decisions that reinforce your financial stability and improve your financial future.

1. Give It Some Time

Initially, the dollar amount of your raise might sound like a significant windfall, but remember that a considerable portion will go toward taxes, health insurance, retirement, and social security, if applicable.

Before you get ahead of yourself, wait for a couple of paychecks to see how much extra take-home cash your raise amounts to on a biweekly or monthly basis. What sounds good on paper may be significantly less in your pocket after all is said and done.

You can also calculate the biweekly amount of your raise yourself, but it won’t be accurate unless you know the amounts of any relevant deductions.

Waiting it out will give you a chance to see real numbers and how much of a difference it’s actually making on each paycheck. This will allow you to determine what any extra money amounts to so that you can spend it wisely instead of overspending or accidentally increasing your monthly expenses.

2. Reassess Your Budget

Once you know how much your new salary increase will put in your bank account, use it as an opportunity to reevaluate your budget. Now’s a great time to review your expenses to determine where any adjustments can be made and how your raise can do the most good.

For example, you may want to allocate a portion of your salary increase to paying off credit card or student loan debt instead of booking an expensive vacation. Or, you may use the extra cash to bolster your rainy day fund.

It’s easy to fall victim to lifestyle creep after a pay increase by indulging in luxuries and not keeping a close eye on your spending habits. Budgeting helps to keep you in check and supports your financial goals.

Instead of increasing your spending on big-ticket upgrades to your lifestyle each time you get a raise, consider how higher bills will affect your financial health. How would buying a bigger home or a new car affect your retirement plans and how much debt you have?

Use your budget to keep an eye on your cost of living so you don’t accidentally overspend after a new raise.

3. Retool Your Retirement

Especially if you aren’t hard up for cash right now, you can use your salary increase to boost your retirement savings.

For example, you can increase the amount you put into your Roth IRA or 401k retirement accounts. Even a small monthly increase can make a significant impact over time, especially if your employer offers contribution matching.

Not only will investing more in your retirement give you long-term financial security, but it will also make sure your raise is put to good use.

4. Pay Off Debts

If you have debts, entering a new salary range is an ideal way to put more money toward paying them off. For example, you can use your pay increase to cover:

  • Credit card debt
  • Student loans
  • Car loans
  • Medical debt
  • Personal loans

The more debt you pay off, the more you save in interest charges over time, keeping a significant amount of money in your pocket. If possible, save the most by paying off debts entirely instead of just making payments.

You can even improve your credit score by paying off debts, helping your financial situation even more, especially if you plan to make any big purchases, such as a home, in the future.

5. Plan for Taxes

When you get a raise, you can expect to pay more in taxes this year than you did last year. Depending on which tax bracket you’re in, you may even find that your raise is barely noticeable if it means you no longer qualify for certain deductions or tax credits.

Understanding how your new salary will affect your taxes gives you an idea of whether you should expect a refund or a bill.

If you aren’t comfortable calculating or assessing your taxes yourself, get in touch with an accountant or financial planner. They’ll be able to give you a good idea of what to expect come tax time based on your pay increase.

If it looks like you’ll owe more money at the end of the year than you anticipated, talk to your employer about increasing your withholdings so the amount you owe is covered.

6. Increase Charitable Donations

Another way to spend your raise is to increase your donations to charities and nonprofit organizations. Not only will it spread the wealth, but charitable donations typically count as tax deductions, potentially reducing the amount you owe each year.

This is especially useful if your raise bumped you into a higher tax bracket.

You can either choose to donate a specific dollar amount or a percentage of your income, whichever works best for your budget. You can also donate items like a used car, however, you’ll need a tax receipt in order to claim it on your taxes.

7. Add to Your Emergency Fund

Your emergency or rainy day fund is meant to lend a hand when your financial situation changes or you need to make an unexpected purchase. For example, it’s helpful to have a buffer of cash set aside if you lose a job or your fridge decides to stop working.

If you don’t have any pressing purchases to make with your new raise, it’s an ideal time to fill up your emergency fund. Having funds you can rely on in the future will give you peace of mind and save you from having to panic about how to cover an expense during a stressful situation.

8. Monitor Your Spending

It’s completely acceptable to celebrate when you get a raise, but it’s important to keep your spending in check. A nice dinner or night out is one thing, but extended overspending and unaffordable purchases are another.

If you do decide to treat yourself — and you should — make sure whatever you reward yourself with is within your spending limits and that it’s a one-time occurrence. Otherwise, you’ll soon fall victim to lifestyle creep and those luxuries will become the norm.

Choose one or two ways to treat yourself and stop there. Just because you’re making more money doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire raise on frivolous items and outings.

9. Consider Inflation

If you haven’t had a raise in a while, you can safely assume that part of your salary increase will go toward covering the costs of inflation. That means that instead of adding up to extra cash in your pocket, your raise will go toward rising prices for everyday expenses like housing and groceries.

Before spending your raise, take a look at the inflation rate to see how much prices have increased since the last time you received a pay bump. This will give you a better understanding of how much added buying power your raise amounts to and what it will mean for your budget and financial planning.

10. Save for a Big Purchase

If you’re planning to make a big purchase in the near future, use your raise to help get you closer to your goal. For example, put it toward:

  • A down payment on a house
  • A wedding
  • A new vehicle
  • A dream vacation
  • Your child’s tuition
  • A home renovation

Consider whether you have any major expenses coming up before spending your raise elsewhere. Setting aside your extra cash to cover upcoming costs will allow you to reach your goals faster and help you to navigate any unexpected costs you encounter.

11. Invest in Yourself

Investing in yourself is an excellent way to use your raise. For example, you could:

You can even do something like get laser eye surgery or have an old tattoo removed. Whatever helps to improve your personal quality of life and makes your future happier and healthier.

12. Do Something Fun

At the end of the day, you earned a raise through your hard work and dedication. You deserve to acknowledge your accomplishment by treating yourself to something special. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes or a fancy dinner, make sure at least a small portion of your raise goes toward celebrating your success.

Depending on how big your raise is and what you have left after you take care of any financial priorities, you could:

  • Go on a vacation
  • Plan a spa day
  • Buy yourself something nice
  • Treat a loved one
  • Fund a hobby

Take this as an opportunity to recognize your professional achievements and reward yourself for a job well done.


Final Word

Moving up on the pay scale is always worth celebrating, whether it comes with new responsibilities or not. But before you spend all your new money, take some time to consider how to get the most out of it.

That could mean reviewing your budget, paying off debts, or saving up for a big purchase — whatever suits your financial goals and situation.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your raise, remember to set some money aside to treat yourself. After all the time and effort you put into your career, you deserve to celebrate your accomplishments.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Guiding Your Company with Business Continuity Planning

Business continuity is a tool for handling the transfer of a business to a different owner when the original owner leaves, dies or becomes incapacitated.  A continuity plan protects short-term and long-term business interests and is one of the most important components to business exit planning. 

Ripple Effects

The death of an owner often sets off a ripple of events for a business if it is not prepared for continuity.  This loss of direction can lead to losses of financial resources and vendors, key talent and ultimately loyal customers.  Below are the key issues that can occur when owners do not create a plan, along with ways to mitigate them:

Loss of Financial Resources

Vendors may decide to discontinue their services to the business, especially if the business defaults on their contracts.  The banks, lessors, bonding and financial institutions you do business with may end their relationship with your company.  How to handle these situations depends on the type of ownership:

Sole owners: Your death can put enormous pressure on the business to continue its performance should third parties refuse to lend money or make guarantees based on the health of your company.  Continuity planning can help offset the loss of leadership.

Partnerships: The loss of financial resources can be mitigated by funding a buy-sell agreement, which places a significant amount of money in the company reserves should you die.

Loss of Key Talent

Another issue that can create problems with business continuity is the loss of your key talent.  If the remaining owners do not have your experience or skills, the business can suffer as if it had been a sole ownership.  Your experience, skills and relationships with customers, vendors and employees may be difficult to replace, especially in the short term.  To overcome this situation, begin grooming and training successive management capable of filling your shoes.  You should also begin preparing for the transition early, because training your replacement can take years.

Loss of Employees and Customers

Particularly with sole ownership, as vendors end their relationship with the business, employees will be unable to satisfy their obligations to customers.  This can hasten the employees’ departure, taking with them key skills and even client relationships. 

To mitigate the loss of key employees, you can incentivize them to continue their employment through a written Stay Bonus that provides bonuses over a period of time, generally 12-18 months.  This bonus is designed to substantially increase their compensation, usually by 50% to 100% for the duration specified.  Typically, this type of bonus is funded using life insurance in an amount that is sufficient to pay the bonuses over the desired timeframe.

Continuity Planning

For businesses with only one owner, it should be obvious that there will be no continuity of the business unless a sole owner takes the appropriate steps to create a future owner.  Whether it be grooming a successor or creating group ownership, this step is one that should be addressed early.  Even if your business is owned by your estate or a trust, you will need to provide for its continuity, if only for a brief period while it can be sold or transferred.  These steps should help business owners move through the process of creating a continuity plan:

  • Create a written Succession of Management plan that expresses your wishes regarding what should be done with your business over a period of time, until your eventual departure.
  • Name the person or persons who will take over the responsibility of operating your business.
  • Ensure your plan specifically states how the business transfer should be handled, whether continued, liquidated or sold.
  • Notify heirs of the resources available to handle the company’s sale, continuation or liquidation.
  • Meet with your banker to discuss the continuity plans you have made.  Showing them that the necessary funding is in place to implement your continuity plans will help the eventual transfer of ownership to proceed smoothly.
  • Work closely with a competent insurance professional to assure the amount of insurance purchased by the owner, the owner’s trust, or the business can cover the business continuity needs outlined in your plan.

Buy-Sell Agreement

For businesses with more than one owner, continuity planning can be achieved by creating a buy-sell agreement.  Such an agreement stipulates how the co-owner’s interest in the business is transferred and is often funded using life insurance or disability buyout insurance.  It can also be funded through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) by creating a privately held corporation.  It is important that you keep the buy-sell agreement updated to avoid creating additional problems with continuity.  There are several types of buy-sell agreements to consider:

Cross purchase: Another business partner agrees to purchase the business from the owner or the owner’s family.  All business owners generally purchase, own and are the beneficiary of an insurance policy insuring each of the other business owners.

Entity purchase: The business entity agrees to purchase the business from the owner or the owner’s family.  In this case, the insurance policy is usually owned by the business.

Wait-and-see: The buyer of the business is allowed to remain unspecified, and a plan is put in place to decide on a buyer at the time of a triggering event (e.g., retirement, disability, death).  The policy ownership and beneficiary structures vary, depending on the type of the agreement.

Deciding when to begin business continuity planning is complicated and likely depends on your health, family circumstances and overall business financial wellness. We suggest you seek the advice of a business planning professional to help you sort through your options.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice.  Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax adviser or lawyer.   

President and Founder, Global Wealth Advisors

Kris Maksimovich, AIF®, CRPC®, CRC®, is president of Global Wealth Advisors in Lewisville, Texas. Since it was formed in 2008, GWA continues to expand with offices around the country. Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Financial planning services offered through Global Wealth Advisors are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth.

Source: kiplinger.com

5 Reasons to Claim Social Security ASAP

Happy senior couple
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Many people believe that claiming Social Security benefits as early as possible — which generally is age 62 — is inherently bad, since claiming before your full retirement age means smaller monthly payments.

However, the reality is that everyone’s circumstances are different. For some retirees, it makes sense to start claiming benefits as soon as possible.

Following are several situations in which you should not put off claiming your Social Security retirement benefits.

1. You have a short life expectancy

The amount of your monthly Social Security retirement benefit payment is based on a formula that’s meant to be actuarially neutral. That basically means you should receive the same total amount of benefits over your lifetime regardless of the age at which you start claiming them.

In other words, if you claim earlier than your full retirement age as determined by the Social Security Administration, you will receive smaller monthly payments over a longer period of time. If you delay claiming until you’re older, you’ll be getting larger payments over what is likely to be a shorter period of time.

If you expect to have a short life expectancy, it might make more sense to start taking the smaller monthly benefit as soon as you can.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson details one such situation in “2-Minute Money Manager: Should I Wait to Take Social Security?” He writes:

“A few years ago, one of my best friends asked if he should take his pension early, and I said, ‘Hell, yes.’ Why? Because he wasn’t in great shape, health-wise. Both of his parents died young, his siblings died young, and he really needed the money. So, my advice to him was, ‘Take it as soon as you can get it.’ He died one year later.”

2. You need the money

You also might need the money immediately to stay on top of your living expenses.

“You’d be surprised at the number of people who end up retiring before they want to,” says Devin Carroll, founder of the blog Social Security Intelligence. “There are lots of reasons — including being laid off or dealing with health issues — that you have to stop working.”

However, remember that the age at which you claim determines the size of your monthly benefit going forward. In other words, the longer you can postpone claiming, the bigger the benefit you’ll get each month after you do claim.

So, if that sounds good to you, first explore other ways that you could bring in extra income, enabling you to postpone claiming. For example, check out articles like “21 Ways Retirees Can Bring in Extra Money in 2021.”

3. You’ve got kids at home

“Increasingly, people are reaching age 62 and still have minor children at home,” notes Carroll.

When that’s the case, claiming your Social Security benefits early makes sense in that it generally enables you to apply for additional benefits to help you care for minor children. That’s because you must apply for your retirement benefits before you can apply for benefits related to dependents.

4. A higher-earning spouse has health problems

It’s kind of morbid, but when deciding whether to start taking Social Security benefits at age 62, you also need to think about when your spouse might die — and how much he or she makes in comparison with you.

One situation to consider is when the higher-earning spouse has medical problems, says Carroll.

That’s because, after a spouse dies, you may become eligible for survivor benefits (also called widow’s or widower’s benefits) based on the spouse’s Social Security. And if your spouse has a short life expectancy, and you know your survivor benefits would be more than your own full retirement benefit, there may be no reason for you to wait for your full retirement benefit.

To learn more about this subject, check out “Social Security Q&A: How Do Spousal Benefits Work?”

5. A lower-earning spouse is older than you

Maybe your spouse earned much less than you during your working years.

“Their own benefit is going to be lower than yours,” says Carroll. “In fact, their benefit might even be lower than the spousal benefit they’d receive based on your earnings.”

However, as with benefits issued based on your own work history, your partner can only claim a spousal benefit based on your work history after you file for your own retirement benefits.

Add up the cumulative benefits, suggests Carroll. You might discover that your total monthly income is better when you file for your benefit early and your older spouse elects to take the spousal benefit.

A final word: Work with an expert

Before making decisions, though, be sure to work out the math and compare your options. Social Security rules are complex and situations vary.

Also, consider reviewing your situation with a Social Security Administration representative or a knowledgeable retirement planning professional.

At the least, you could obtain a custom analysis of your claiming options from a specialized company like Social Security Choices.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

5 Reasons You Should Not Delay Retirement

Grandfather reading to his granddaughter
LightField Studios / Shutterstock.com

Some people view retirement as something that should be delayed as long as possible. They say that, for many older workers, waiting as long as possible to collect Social Security benefits is the prudent choice.

Important as this advice is for many of us, it may not apply to you. If you are financially prepared, there are good reasons to consider retiring at the traditional age of 65, or maybe even sooner.

“Time is the most valuable asset anyone can ever have,” Mike Kern, a certified public accountant based in South Carolina, tells Money Talks News. “I would encourage anyone who has the ability and wants to retire early to do so.”

There is plenty to see, do and learn in retirement. Many retirees go on to pursue new careers or fulfill lifetime goals they didn’t have time for when they were working. Freed from the burden of a 9-to-5 job, they find that life has many new possibilities.

What follows are powerful reasons not to delay your retirement.

1. Delaying Social Security may not be right for you

Before deciding, consider your personal circumstances, advises Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson:

“For some people it’s a great idea to take Social Security early, and for some people it’s a great idea to wait.”

You generally can start receiving Social Security as soon as age 62. Some people wait as late as age 70. If you plan to continue working until your benefits reach their maximum at age 70, delaying your claim will result in greater monthly payouts. However, if you have concerns about how long you may live or you need the money right away, filing an early claim may make the most sense.

Good to know: The system is actuarially neutral, designed to make your overall benefits work out approximately the same over the course of your retirement, no matter when you first claim them. Delaying your first claim increases your monthly retirement benefit, but it may not affect the total amount you receive over a lifetime.

2. Retirement can lower your housing costs

When you retire, you no longer need to live close to a job. Where you decide to live in retirement can affect your quality of life, due in part to the price of real estate and rental homes.

“Your house is typically the biggest expense in your budget,” says Kern. “Oftentimes, the best way to considerably decrease your costs is by downsizing or moving to a cheaper place.”

Smaller towns generally have less-expensive housing than large metropolitan areas. For example, in early February, the median home value in Boise, Idaho — a community of about 229,000 residents — was $406,579, according to Zillow.

Sound expensive? Well, compare that to San Francisco. Zillow says Frisco’s median home value in early February was $1,402,470.

3. Your good health may not last

Nobody lives forever. If you don’t get started on your post-retirement goals in a timely manner, you may never reach them.

“As grim as it sounds, if your health is on the decline, then it may make sense to take an early retirement in order to maximize the net payout of your lifetime,” says attorney Jacob Dayan, CEO of Chicago-based tax services company Community Tax.

Consider, too, that you may experience health problems as you age. If your retirement goals require being in good physical shape so that you can hike the Inca Trail in Peru or bicycle through Ireland, it makes sense to retire sooner.

4. You want to start a new career

Retiring allows you to pursue your true passions. Some retirees use their savings and pension benefits to finance the start of another career.

You can’t claim Social Security retirement benefits until age 62, but if you’ve invested in a retirement plan or qualify for a pension, you may be able to use part of those funds to launch a new career.

Dayan advises careful planning and consideration before making a change. If retiring early and starting a new career requires a substantial financial investment, consider all the risks, including tapping your retirement funds. Make sure the switch won’t put you in financial distress.

5. You can afford to do it

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but, with careful planning, an adequate retirement account may allow you to quit your job. If you no longer feel fulfilled at work and can afford it, it may be time to make the transition. A few things to consider:

  • When you’re starting out in your career, it’s easy to become obsessed with getting ahead. At some point, though, you reach your goal. You deserve a reward for your hard work.
  • If you have loved ones who need your help, and you can afford to stop working, retiring frees you to help them with their day-to-day activities.
  • Retirement offers you time to grow, cultivate new interests, pursue hobbies and spend time with loved ones. It frees you to do the things that matter most.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

7 Signs You are Living Beyond Your Means

When you’ve lived paycheck to paycheck, scrounging up enough money for an emergency fund can feel like a revelation. All of a sudden you’re not living with a dark cloud over your head and setbacks start to seem more manageable. You feel more in control of your life and your finances.

But you can take that even further. Saving for emergencies is just the first step in developing a strong, stable plan for the future. Once you have the foundation laid, it’s time to start deciding just what kind of future you’re trying to build.

That future starts with savings goals. Here are a few examples of how to start saving beyond your emergency fund.

Car Repair Fund

About 18 months ago, my husband and I were driving up for a ski weekend in the Colorado mountains. We were meeting his cousin and wife for a long weekend of winter sports, beer and food. At least, that was the plan.

On the way there our car started making a funny noise. Eventually, that funny noise turned into a persistent whine, and before we knew it the engine was smoking and we were stranded on the side of the road. We had the car towed back to a mechanic, who informed us that it would cost several thousand dollars to repair the damage.

I hadn’t really planned for this. The car had less than 200,000 miles and seemed in good shape. We’d followed the maintenance schedule religiously and had no reason to worry. Luckily, the incident happened just a few days before we received a huge tax refund, so we took the money and bought another car. I learned a valuable lesson that day: always save for a car repair fund.

Since then, I set up an auto draft to a separate savings account solely for car repairs. I picked $75 a month as a starting point but might increase it to $100 in the near future.

I’ve also started a car replacement fund, so I’m prepared for the next time my husband and I need to buy a new car. That account gets $100 every month, and any leftover money I find at the end of the year.

Vacation Fund

Erin Lowry of “Broke Millennial” wrote in a recent post about how she has a separate vacation fund set aside so she can travel more spontaneously. She has at least $3,000 in her vacation fund, so she’s prepared when her girlfriends want to take an impromptu trip or she finds an amazing flight deal to Germany.

If travel is an important part of your life – or you’d like it to be – consider starting a vacation fund. Even if it’s just a long weekend at the family cabin or a short road trip to a neighboring state, giving yourself the option to escape at any time can make the daily grind a little more bearable.

Don’t feel pressured to save aggressively if you don’t want to. Even $300 a month will add up to $3,600 a year, enough for a two-week European stay or a handful of smaller domestic trips. If you keep saving for multiple years, you could end up with enough for a months-long sabbatical.

Personal Goals

When people talk about their greatest financial regrets, they usually reminisce about the investment deal they didn’t take or the house they never bought. For me, it’s the Spice Girls concert I didn’t go to.

The group came to Chicago while I was in college, and a few people from my dorm were carpooling to the concert. They had an extra ticket, which cost $100. I had the money in my bank account, but chose to be “responsible” and stay home. I’ve regretted it ever since.

About a year ago, there were rumors that the Spice Girls were planning to reunite and go on a limited international tour. I live about three hours from Chicago, and I figured the Windy City would definitely be a stop on the tour.

A couple weeks later I got a birthday check from my grandma, which I promptly deposited into a separate Spice Girls savings account. Rumors of a tour have since dissipated, but I still have hope that one day the girls will be reunited. Until then, I’ll be keeping $200 in that account.

It might seem insane to have a whole savings account for one concert that may never happen, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind. If I ever get the opportunity to fulfill this dream, I won’t have to sacrifice a thing. I’ll just pluck the money from my account, close it down and go have the time of my life.

If there’s something you desperately want to do someday, like attend the Super Bowl or run the Boston Marathon, it’s not a bad idea to have the money stashed away for that purpose. If the goal never comes to fruition or you’re not able to get tickets, you can always use it for something else.

Medical Expenses

One of the best ways to save money outside of an emergency fund is in a health savings account (HSA). HSA contributions are tax-deductible, can be withdrawn tax-free and earnings are also not taxed.

You can contribute up to $3,3450 for an individual or $6,900 for families. Once you have more than $2,000 in your HSA, you can start to invest the money like you would for a retirement account. HSAs are only available if you have a high-deductible insurance plan, but don’t have any income limitations.

If you aren’t eligible for a high-deductible plan or it’s just not a good fit, you can still save for medical expenses outside of an HSA. A good rule of thumb is to save as much as your out-of-pocket maximum since that should cover a year of catastrophic medical bills. You can keep this in the same savings account where you have your emergency fund or in a separate one.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or view of Intuit Inc, Mint or any affiliated organization. This blog post does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.
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Source: mint.intuit.com

7 Reasons Not to Claim Social Security Early

Older woman working at a florist shop
pikselstock / Shutterstock.com

Some people believe in starting to collect Social Security as early as possible, which is generally at age 62.

“Live while it is yet possible to live!” the early birds cry. “After all, I could die tomorrow, and then the government will keep my money.”

What’s more likely is that you’ll live a lot longer than 62.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the average woman reaching the age of 65 today will live until nearly 87. The average man who is 65 today can expect to live until about 84.

One way to help ensure you don’t run out of money before then is to postpone claiming your Social Security retirement benefits. There are advantages to waiting as late as 70 years old.

While waiting until age 70 isn’t for everyone, following are some reasons that claiming sooner than later can be a bad idea.

1. Claiming early reduces your benefit

Some people think that taking Social Security at age 62 means more money overall. That’s not necessarily true.

The amount of your monthly benefit is based on a formula that’s meant to be actuarially neutral. That basically means you should get the same total amount of benefits over the course of your retirement regardless of the age at which you first claim benefits.

Your monthly benefit will be reduced if you claim before reaching what the SSA calls your “full retirement age,” an age set by the SSA that depends on the year you were born. For example, full retirement age for a person born in 1955 is 66 years and 2 months, while full retirement age for anyone born in 1960 or later is 67.

If you delay claiming until after your full retirement age, you will receive an even bigger monthly benefit once you do claim. For every year you hold off past full retirement age, your benefit will grow by as much as 8%.

The SSA’s “Quick Calculator” can give you a rough idea of your own benefit amount based on when you plan to retire.

A custom analysis of your claiming options, offered by specialized companies like Social Security Choices, can further help you determine when the best time is for you to claim your benefits.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson himself got an analysis from Social Security Choices. To learn more about such a report — including how to land a discount on the cost of your report — check out “Maximize Your Social Security.”

2. You might outlive your other retirement income

If there’s a chance that you could use up your retirement funds before you die, a higher Social Security benefit could be crucial.

Getting every last dollar you can in your monthly benefit is important, especially if you don’t have a partner who’s also receiving benefits.

3. Working longer can increase your benefit

Your monthly benefit amount is based on the amount of income you earned during each of your 35 highest-earning working years. However, not everyone is able or willing to work for 35 years, often due to health or family issues.

When that’s the case, the government will substitute zeroes for the missing years in its calculation, which can significantly lower your monthly benefit amount.

Low-earning years also bring down the total, says Emily Guy Birken, author of “Making Social Security Work for You.”

As tempting as early retirement can be, think big-picture and look for ways to bring in more bucks before claiming.

“Anything you can do to replace those zeroes and anything you can do to replace those low-earning years will help beef up your retirement,” Birken tells Money Talks News.

4. COLAs will not boost your benefit as much

A lower monthly benefit means that each cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) — the inflation-based regular increase to your monthly benefit amount — will result in less money than it would have if you had postponed claiming Social Security.

Why? COLAs are a percentage of your monthly benefit. So, the smaller your benefit amount, the smaller your COLA dollar amount.

A 2% COLA, for example, would increase a $2,000 benefit by around $40 a month, or $480 per year. But it would increase a $2,480 benefit by about $49.60, or $595.20 per year.

5. You might stiff your spouse

Working at least until your full retirement age gives your husband or wife a better chance at a reasonably comfortable retirement if you die first.

That’s because widows and widowers often can benefit from Social Security survivors benefits, which are based on their spouse’s benefit amount.

Using the same benefit amounts as above, say a man gets a $2,000 benefit, while his wife’s check will be $1,700 upon her own retirement. If he dies first, she could be eligible for up to $2,000 in monthly benefits. But if he’d waited a few years to claim Social Security, and let his benefit amount grow, she could have been eligible for up to $2,480.

6. You might be hit by a ‘tax torpedo’

Some people want to let their portfolios grow, so they take Social Security early and live on it until they’re forced to withdraw required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their retirement accounts.

This plan can backfire, though, because of how Social Security benefits are taxed.

The extent to which your benefits are taxable is based on what the SSA calls your “combined income.” It includes taxable income, such as withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement accounts like traditional 401(k) plans and traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs).

Depending on the amount of your combined income, up to 85% of your Social Security benefit could be taxed.

One way to dodge such a tax torpedo is to withdraw less money from your tax-deferred retirement account each year. And delaying claiming Social Security can help you do that because you’ll get a bigger monthly benefit.

In turn, Birken explains:

“You won’t need to take as much from your taxable retirement [plan] to make up the amount you need to live on.”

Some people don’t realize they might have to pay taxes on their benefits. Birken calls it “one of the really nasty surprises about Social Security.”

For more ways to keep Uncle Sam from taking part of your benefits, check out “5 Ways to Avoid Taxes on Social Security Income.”

7. You still like your job

Just because you’re old enough to retire doesn’t mean you have to retire.

Even a part-time salary — plus any other retirement benefits — could cover expenses until you hit age 70, at which point your Social Security benefit would be maximized.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

15 Ways to Save Money Landscaping Your Yard

If you have a yard, you’ve probably daydreamed about what you want it to look like someday. But landscaping costs keep many homeowners from breaking ground.

Whether you want to improve your curb appeal, make your yard more functional, or plant your own botanical oasis, landscaping doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little creativity and forethought, you can have the outdoor space you’ve always wanted without emptying your wallet.

Landscaping Tips to Save Money on Outdoor Living

You don’t need to hire a professional landscaper to have a beautiful backyard. You just have to get your hands dirty. From planting perennials to making your own compost, homeowners have many options when it comes to saving on landscaping costs.

1. Choose a Purpose for Your Space

How you plan to use your outdoor space determines how you landscape it. Decide whether you want to tailor your landscape design to:

  • A play area for kids or pets
  • An outdoor dining and lounging area for yourself and guests
  • A productive herb or vegetable garden
  • A butterfly or bee garden

You can choose more than one, budget and space permitting.

But knowing how you plan to use your yard allows you to make a budget and avoid overspending on unnecessary purchases. It also helps you determine where you can cut costs and what your most significant expenses will be, such as putting in sod or building a ground-level deck.

2. Work With Your Yard

Work with the yard you have instead of trying to create something completely different. For example, if you have large, naturally occurring rocks and boulders in your yard, having them moved costs a lot of money. Rather than paying for removal, work around them by turning them into a rock garden or using flowers and mulch to create an attractive feature piece.

The more you need to change your yard, the more costly landscaping becomes. Uprooting trees, leveling terrain, and relocating rocks are all expensive endeavors. Instead of making your yard into something it isn’t, work with what you have.

3. Salvage Existing Wooden Fencing or Decking

Fences, decks, and patios are crucial components of many yards. And without proper maintenance, they can fall into a state of disrepair. But just because your outdoor wooden structures are looking a little worse for wear doesn’t mean you can’t salvage them for your new landscaping project.

Rather than spending a fortune on replacing an old fence or deck, fix it yourself by:

  • Repairing or replacing damaged and broken boards
  • Pressure-washing aged wood and chipping paint
  • Giving everything a good scrub
  • Applying paint or stain and waterproof sealant
  • Maintaining it each year

A quick trip to a home improvement store like Home Depot to rent a pressure-washer or buy some sealant is bound to cost a lot less than paying a contractor to rebuild your outdoor structure.

4. Choose Fence and Deck Materials Based on Climate and Need

Sometimes, salvaging your wooden fence or deck isn’t practical in the long run. If you need to replace or rebuild a fence, deck, or patio, save some money down the road by choosing materials suited to your climate.

For example, in areas where it’s either particularly hot or humid, wooden structures often need to be maintained and replaced more frequently since they’re constantly exposed to harsh elements like the sun or rain, which can damage and destroy them.

Instead, explore options with a longer lifespan, like brick, concrete, composite, vinyl, or metal. Do a cost-benefit analysis to determine how much you could save in the future for maintenance and replacement costs by choosing an alternative to wood.

5. Use Natural Elements

Found natural elements like rocks and stones are inexpensive alternatives to store-bought pavers and edging. You can also use tree stumps as stools or tables and natural mulch like grass clippings, shredded leaves, or pine needles in your flower beds.

These elements add a rustic and natural appeal to your yard and come at little to no cost. Pick up free rocks in new housing developments or by browsing online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Repurpose dead trees by turning them into furniture. And simply empty your lawn mower bag for free mulch.

6. Create a Lush Lawn

If you have sparse grass coverage or weeds have overtaken your yard, you need to put in some work to grow a healthy lawn. But you don’t need to hire an expensive landscaper to bring your grass back to life. You can take care of weeds by pulling them by hand or using a lawn-friendly weed killer.

For dead or thin grass, try reseeding your lawn to bring it back to life. You can also promote its growth using a high-quality fertilizer, which can also help kill weeds.

Just ensure it’s a match for your soil type and United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone, a measure of a region’s climatic conditions (such as heat and humidity) that helps gardeners determine the likelihood of a plant’s growth and survival.

Local home improvement stores and garden centers only carry plants and materials suited to your zone, so if you buy locally instead of online, you can find products suited to your zone without much effort. And you can always ask a store employee for assistance with choosing materials for your soil type.

If your lawn is too far gone, you may have to plant new grass, which takes a lot of time and effort. It involves stripping your old grass, laying down landscaping fabric and topsoil, and seeding or putting in squares or strips of pre-grown grass, which is called sod.

You can hire a landscaper to install it for you, but doing it yourself can potentially save a lot of money. According to Angi (formerly Angie’s List), it costs between $0.35 to $0.85 per square foot on average to buy sod, depending on what type of grass you get and prices in your area. You also may need to purchase fertilizer, landscaping fabric, and topsoil and rent equipment to grade the lawn.

Hiring a landscaper costs between $1 and $2 per square foot. So doing it yourself could potentially save you several hundred dollars. But it may not be worth it.

Angi also notes that it takes around 40 hours of work, though Home Depot says it only takes two to four hours. Either way, cutting corners could prevent your grass from taking root, costing you more money in the long run. So if you aren’t confident in your abilities, it may save you money to have a pro do it. Get some estimates from professionals and compare the costs of DIY.

Regardless of the state of your lawn, getting it back into tip-top shape is key to having a front yard with curb appeal or a backyard oasis.

But keep maintaining it after you complete your landscaping project. Just like most front yard and backyard landscaping, slacking on lawn care only costs more money in the long run. If you don’t stay on top of grass and weed issues each year, your lawn only gets worse with each season. Remember to weed, seed, fertilize, and water your grass to keep yourself from having to pay for extensive and expensive renovations in the future.

7. Landscape With Native Plants

Native plants are the plants that grow naturally in your hardiness zone. Native plants tend to thrive in your climate and soil, which means they’re low-maintenance and easy to grow, unlike potentially finicky nonnative plants.

Because native gardening often requires less maintenance, it helps save on costs for things like fertilizers, pesticides, and water while still growing healthy and strong. It’s particularly useful for novice gardeners since it can prevent you from wasting money on plants that aren’t suited to your soil or zone or take a lot of extra effort to grow.

As a bonus, they also attract birds, bees, butterflies, and wildlife since they provide familiar shelter and natural diets to various creatures in your region.

You can find native plants by perusing the Native Plant Database or talking to someone at your local plant nursery.

8. Plant Perennials

Unlike annuals, which only bloom for one season, perennial plants come up each year. For example, bulbs like crocuses, daffodils, and irises are typically perennials and sprout each spring. Perennials can also be herbs, ground cover plants, fruit bushes, and vegetables.

Because you only have to plant perennials once, you don’t have to purchase new flowers or plants each year. And they tend to multiply, so over time, you can separate the plants and bulbs and use them in other parts of your garden or trade them with others.

9. Plant From Seed

If you’re growing a garden or flowers, planting from seed rather than buying established plants and sprouts is a lot cheaper, although it requires more work on your part. For example, a packet of basil seeds typically costs between $1 and $3 compared to a single basil plant, which can cost anywhere from $5 to $15, depending on the variety. However, seeds can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to sprout.

You can either sow seeds directly into the ground or start them indoors based on their growing season and germination period.

If you choose to grow indoors, you must purchase some supplies upfront, like starter trays, a grow light, and a growing medium. But you can reuse many of these tools each year, saving you from buying it again each season.

If you plant them outdoors, you just need a garden bed or planter and some soil.

10. Build Your Own Garden Beds

Flower beds and veggie gardens are simple DIY landscaping projects. Putting in a new garden doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You can use flower beds or planters around trees or features as natural edging or start a simple herb or vegetable bed in an unused corner of your yard. Some popular options include raised planting beds and container gardens.

Depending on lumber costs and whether you can make one from found wood or old containers you already own, DIY planting beds can be much more cost-effective than buying prefabricated beds. And they’re definitely cheaper than hiring someone to build them for you. That’s especially true if all you want is something simple to house your veggies or keep flowers from spreading.

For more information on using found containers or repurposed materials as plant beds, read our article on saving money on gardening.

11. Join (or Start) a Plant Swap

Plants are probably part of your landscaping plan, whether you’re planting ornamental grasses, succulents, flowers, herbs, or veggies. Unfortunately, plants come with price tags — unless you join or start a local plant swap or seed exchange.

In a plant swap, local gardeners and plant enthusiasts trade their extra seeds or propagated plants. They give you a chance to diversify your garden for free as long as you have sprouts, seeds, or established plants of your own to barter with. Seed exchanges are also sometimes offered as part of the non-book-related free services at public libraries.

You’ll also meet fellow green thumbs who can offer tips and landscaping ideas that may help you to save money and have a more successful garden.

12. Buy Trees Late in the Season

Depending on what type you want and how common they are in your area, trees can come with hefty price tags, especially during peak gardening and landscaping season.

But unlike many flowers, herbs, and vegetables, you don’t have to plant trees early in the growing season. And if you wait, you can save big.

Many garden centers and nurseries offer discounts as the season progresses, with the most significant being in the late summer and early fall. And as long as you get your tree in the ground with enough time to establish roots before winter, waiting a month or two to buy and plant it doesn’t do any harm.

13. Make Your Own Compost

Compost does wonders for your garden. It helps improve your soil structure and fertility and provides beneficial nutrients.

Instead of spending money buying compost to boost your garden beds’ productivity and health, save money, reduce your waste, and help the environment all at once by making your own in a compost heap in your yard or composting container by using discarded organics like kitchen waste and grass clippings.

14. Build a Fire Pit

Fire pits are a popular garden idea that adds to the atmosphere and usability of your yard. They’re perfect for enjoying cool summer evenings and roasting marshmallows. But when purchased from a retailer, they can cost a lot of money.

Instead of buying a fire pit, build your own using rocks, bricks, concrete, or metal. Depending on the materials you use and the size of your fire pit, it could cost you less than $100 to build.

Just ensure you’re legally allowed to have one and that it meets your city’s rules and regulations. For example, most fire pits have to be a certain distance from buildings and permanent structures like fences and sheds.

15. Buy in Bulk

One of the best landscaping tips is buying in bulk to reduce your costs for supplies like soil, mulch, sand, river stones, and crushed rock. If you’re planning a large-scale yard renovation or soil amendment, calculate how much material like soil, rock, and mulch you need and put in a large order instead of making multiple one-off trips to the garden center.

Save even more by asking your neighbors if they need anything and split delivery costs on the order.


Final Word

Landscaping your yard can improve your home’s outdoor living experience and motivate you to spend more time outside. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. You can have a beautiful and inviting yard while keeping costs low.

To keep enjoying your yard year after year, continue maintaining it regularly by seeding, fertilizing, and weeding the lawn; tending to plants and trees; and repairing and sealing fixtures like fences and decks. That will keep you from having to take out a personal loan just to cover landscaping costs in the future.

Source: moneycrashers.com

14 Best Grocery Coupon and Cash-Back Apps to Save Money

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. households spent 9.5% of their disposable income on food in 2019, with 4.9% being for food at home. Additionally, grocery store prices also saw a 3.5% increase between 2019 and 2020.

There’s nothing you can do to avoid food spending altogether. But you certainly don’t have to pay full price the next time you shop. There are numerous ways to save money on groceries, and you don’t need to sacrifice products you enjoy to find savings.

One effective way to reduce grocery costs is to use your smartphone. Apps that help you save on groceries have grown in popularity, which is excellent news for any frugal shopper. The next time you restock your kitchen, download a few money-saving grocery apps before heading out the door to start saving more.

The Best Apps to Save Money on Groceries

There are several app categories that help reduce grocery spending. Mobile coupon apps, grocery-store apps, and various cash-back rewards programs are popular examples. Using a combination of these apps and looking for in-store deals, you can maximize every dollar you spend on groceries.

1. Grocery Store Apps

The best way to save money on groceries is often to use store apps from your favorite grocers. Many supermarkets highlight in-store deals and coupons through a mobile app. Some stores even have loyalty programs that link to your mobile account, letting you redeem savings at the register.

Some of the best grocery store apps that have coupons and reward programs include:

If you stack a store rewards card with mobile coupons and deals, it’s even better. For example, if you do most of your grocery shopping at Kroger, you can sign up for the rewards debit card to save 2% on Kroger brands and earn fuel rewards. Target also has a mobile app that highlights coupons and store promotions, and you can shop with a Target RedCard to get 5% off most in-store and online purchases.

Between in-app coupons and your rewards card, you’re already starting to reduce your grocery bill without having to change stores.

2. Coupons.com

Coupons.com is a popular couponing website that’s essentially a database of free printable coupons and online promo codes. On the website, you can find and print coupons for a range of categories, including:

Coupons.com usually limits you to printing one or two of each coupon. It’s still an effective way to save, but if you want to earn rewards for grocery shopping, the Coupons.com app for Android or iOS is also worth using.

If you were a fan of SavingStar, Coupons.com acquired them in 2020. As such, through Coupons.com’s app, you can now earn cash-back rewards for buying specific offers, including groceries.

Simply activate rebates in the app by tapping on them, shop, and then take a picture of your receipt with the app to earn cash back. Alternatively, link store loyalty cards from companies like Publix or Safeway to automatically earn cash back for eligible purchases.

Unlike many reward apps, Coupons.com doesn’t have a minimum redemption requirement. You get paid through PayPal, and between paper and online coupons and cash-back rewards, Coupons.com is a comprehensive tool to save on groceries and everyday essentials.

3. Ibotta

Ibotta is another way to earn cash-back rewards for buying specific products from Ibotta partners. The app doesn’t focus on groceries. It also has deals for categories like health and beauty, travel, entertainment, and sports. But grocery delivery and rebate deals are still a significant portion of available offers.

Ibotta partners with more than 300 retailers, including grocery stores like Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, and Whole Foods. You can also find Ibotta deals at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club.

Saving money with Ibotta takes four simple steps:

  1. Find Offers. Like other receipt-scanning apps, you preselect rebates before shopping. You can find rebates under the “find offers” tab within Ibotta and search by categories to narrow your search to groceries.
  2. Shop. After you select rebates, you’re ready to shop. Check Ibotta offers for any specific terms to ensure you buy the right brand, size, and quantity. Rebates often have specific requirements, and your purchase won’t credit if you make a mistake.
  3. Verify Purchase. Snap a photo of your receipt with the Ibotta app to verify your purchases.
  4. Redeem Cash Back. Ibotta deposits cash into your rewards account within 48 hours of submitting proof of purchase. You can cash out after reaching $20. Cash-out options include PayPal, Venmo, and gift cards to companies like Amazon, Starbucks, and Target.

Ibotta also lets you link store loyalty cards to your account to automatically earn for eligible purchases so you can skip selecting rebates. Loyalty card linking works at over 100 stores, including Hannaford, Meijer, and Wegmans.

Like other cash-back reward apps, it’s best to stack rebates with other discounts, like coupons or a cash-back credit card. For example, if you find an Ibotta rebate for $0.75 off Cliff Bars at Walmart, look for manufacturer coupons or Walmart store coupons for extra savings. If you then shop with the Capital One Walmart Rewards credit card, you’re maximizing your savings for that product.

It might take a few grocery trips to reach the $20 cash-out minimum. But Ibotta has some of the best offer variety and highest-paying rebates in the grocery rewards app industry, so it certainly has worthwhile saving potential.

Read our Ibotta review for all the details.

4. Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards is another receipt-scanning app for Android and iOS that works almost exactly like Ibotta. But while many Ibotta offers require shopping at a specific store, Fetch Rewards only requires buying specific brands to earn points. That means you can shop at your grocery store of choice without having to drive around town or miss out on offers from stores you never shop at.

Fetch Rewards partners with brands in several categories, including groceries, cosmetics, magazines, alcohol, and baby products. But groceries at the largest category, including recognizable brands like:

  • Betty Crocker
  • Heinz
  • Hershey’s
  • Knorr
  • Kraft
  • Oscar Mayer
  • Pepsi
  • Sabra
  • Yoplait

Once you purchase products from a Fetch Rewards partner brand, you take a picture of your receipt with the app to verify your purchase. Points credit in your Fetch Rewards account after the receipt processes, which typically takes a few hours. You can redeem points for dozens of free gift cards, including Amazon, CVS, Burger King, Dunkin’, Old Navy, and Target.

Receipts that have at least one participating brand pay a minimum of 50 points, or $0.05. Additionally, Fetch Rewards has a page where you can find higher-paying special offers that pay bonus points. For example, special offers might pay 2,000 points ($2) for buying a pack of Tyson chicken breast or 1,000 points ($1) for buying McCain frozen smile potatoes.

One advantage of Fetch Rewards is that you only require 3,000 points, or $3, to redeem many gift cards. Realistically, that means you can enjoy your first reward within a shopping trip or two, depending on how many eligible brands and special offers you buy.

You won’t score massive discounts with Fetch Rewards, but it’s another simple app to save money on groceries if you don’t mind scanning your receipts. The redemption minimum is also one of the lowest out of all reward apps.

Read our Fetch Rewards review for more information.

5. Checkout 51

Another way to turn grocery receipts into cash rewards is to use Checkout 51, a free grocery rewards app for Android and iOS.

With Checkout 51, you select rebates before shopping and upload receipts for proof of purchase. You can also link loyalty cards to your account from over a dozen partners, including Dollar General, Hannaford, H-E-B, Meijer, and Publix. It’s fairly similar to other reward apps.

However, Checkout 51 focuses on groceries for rebates and works at hundreds of stores, including:

  • Aldi
  • Albertsons
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Costco
  • Kroger
  • Meijer
  • Publix
  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods
  • Winn-Dixie

Additionally, Checkout 51 has a pick-your-own-offer section where you choose grocery essentials like bread, eggs, and produce to earn cash-back rewards for buying. These rewards usually range from $0.25 to $1, but it’s nice to reliably earn cash back on grocery essentials alongside specific products from brand partners.

Checkout 51 offers update every Thursday at 12am. So during the week, you might find that certain offers disappear as more shoppers claim them. That means it’s essential to check for new rebates on Thursday morning, select them, and shop that day to earn rewards. (Don’t wait for the weekend since grocery prices are higher on the weekends and sales usually happen on Wednesdays and Thursdays.)

Overall, Checkout 51 rebates are competitive, and you can redeem many offers multiple times, which is useful if you bulk-shop. Checkout 51 has a $20 cash-out requirement and pays through check. PayPal payments are also coming to the app and are currently in testing.

Reward variety is a downside for this app, but grocery-specific rebates and offer variety still make Checkout 51 one of the best grocery rewards apps around.

Read our Checkout 51 review for all the details.

6. Receipt Hog

If you’re already saving receipts to scan with other apps, add Receipt Hog to your smartphone.

With Receipt Hog, you turn everyday receipts into rewards just by taking a photo of your receipts with the app. But the type of receipt you upload determines the reward you earn:

  • Coin Receipts. Earn coins for uploading receipts for grocery stores, pharmacies, pet stores, dollar stores, supercenters, convenience stores, and alcohol stores. Coins are redeemable for free Amazon gift cards and PayPal cash.
  • Spin Receipts. Receipt Hog has a slots game where you can earn bonus coins or cash prizes for getting lucky. Spin receipt categories include apparel, department stores, home goods, office supplies, and electronics. Spin receipts don’t pay coins, so you have to get lucky to earn with this receipt type.
  • Sweepstake Receipts. Every receipt you scan grants you one entry into a monthly sweepstake where Receipt Hog gives out additional coins and cash prizes. You can also upload receipts from gas stations, restaurants, bars, and cafes for additional sweepstake entries.

Coin receipts are the most common type of receipt. You need 1,000 coins to redeem a $5 reward. Typically, receipts pay between five to 100 coins, with more expensive receipts paying a higher number of coins.

Realistically, it takes dozens of receipts to earn a $5 reward unless you get lucky on the slot game. But if you’re already scanning receipts with other apps, the extra 30 seconds of using Receipt Hog helps you save even more. And for non-grocery receipts, Receipt Hog provides the chance to at least earn something for scanning them versus throwing those receipts out.

Plus, there’s always the chance you get lucky with the slots or monthly sweepstake and earn a few hundred dollars’ worth of bonus coins.

7. The Coupons App

The Coupons App is a free couponing app that’s available for Android and iOS. While the app isn’t exclusively for grocery coupons, it’s still an immensely valuable tool to save on groceries and everyday shopping.

The app works with hundreds of retailers and lets you search, save, and use coupons right from your smartphone. You can also search for local deals and enable notifications to alert you when a nearby retailer has couponing opportunities.

But if you’re looking for an app to save money on groceries, The Coupons App has you covered. Several notable retailers the app regularly has coupons for include:

  • Aldi
  • Costco
  • Dollar Tree
  • Family Dollar
  • Kroger
  • Publix
  • Safeway
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods

Mobile coupons and weekly ads update daily to keep you in the loop about in-store deals. You can also create a grocery list within the app with the corresponding coupons you plan to use. If you frequently buy the same brands, you can set up tracking to receive brand-specific coupon notifications to ensure you don’t miss out on savings.

Other features include a gas-finder tool to save money on gas, an Amazon price tracker, and weekly cash giveaways.

The grocery list tool coupled with brand-specific coupon alerts is a useful money-saving combination. At the very least, it’s worth recreating your existing grocery list on The Coupons App and tracking coupons so you can passively collect coupons for your favorite brands.

8. Flipp

Flipp brands itself as an all-in-one savings app and says users save an average of $45 per week. That translates to over $2,000 in annual savings, which is quite a bold claim for a free app to make.

But if you want to save money on a tight budget and maximize grocery store savings, Flipp is worth downloading. The app lets you browse thousands of digital flyers from more than 2,000 retailers to find weekly deals to build your grocery list with.

Plus, Flipp has several other money-saving features:

  • Add Loyalty Cards. Save store loyalty cards to access during checkout to ensure you always earn points.
  • Mobile Coupons. Find and save coupons to your store loyalty cards for easy use at checkout.
  • Find Deals. Search for weekly flyer deals and trending offers on categories like groceries, household essentials, and electronics.
  • Shopping Lists. Create a grocery list or general shopping list. Flipp automatically finds any corresponding deals for the products you add.
  • Price Matching. Since Flipp provides access to thousands of flyers, you can search for specific products and compare prices between retailers. That makes it easy to price-match at checkout if the store allows price matching.

The price-matching feature is what makes Flipp so powerful. It’s difficult to manually track weekly flyers to find the best deals in town. With Flipp, all you have to do is search for specific products and compare flyer prices to see if there’s an opportunity to price-match.

For example, if you find strawberries are cheaper at Walmart but you prefer shopping at a nearby Target superstore, use Flipp to show the Walmart flyer and strawberry price when cashing out at Target. Since Target matches prices with Walmart on identical regularly priced products, you save money. It also lets you shop at your favorite store without worrying about missing deals at a grocery store across town.

Flipp is available for Android and iOS. Popular Flipp retailers include Kroger, Walmart, Meijer, and Family Dollar, but it also works at dozens of other superstores, grocery stores, and drugstores.

It takes some time to look through the app for coupons and price-matching opportunities. But even using Flipp’s weekly ads section to find in-store deals at your favorite grocery store helps you save money without much effort.

9. Coupon Sherpa

If you want a grocery coupon app that keeps things simple, Coupon Sherpa is a perfect choice. This free app lets you access thousands of mobile coupons while on the go, and there are also hundreds of grocery coupons available at any given time.

Coupon Sherpa also lets you search for nearby stores with available coupons or search for store-specific coupons. These features are handy when planning an upcoming grocery trip, and the in-app coupon map highlights local stores with the most couponing opportunities for the day.

Coupons scan at the register from your smartphone, and there are online-only coupon codes as well. Popular grocery stores Coupon Sherpa usually has coupons for include:

  • Aldi
  • Albertsons
  • Food Lion
  • Kroger
  • Meijer
  • Publix
  • Wegmans
  • Whole Foods

You won’t find extra features like weekly sales flyers or cash-back rewards, but that’s not Coupon Sherpa’s strength. Instead, Coupon Sherpa helps experienced and novice couponers quickly access coupons while on the go, ultimately saving time and money.

10. BeFrugal

If you want the best of both worlds when it comes to coupons and cash-back rewards, BeFrugal is a must-use resource for savvy shoppers.

In terms of grocery coupons, BeFrugal partners with Coupons.com to provide a database of printable coupons. You can also access weekly ad flyers to find deals at companies like:

  • Dollar General
  • Family Dollar
  • Meijer
  • Shop ‘n Save Food
  • Target
  • Walmart

Admittedly, the coupons and flyer selection on BeFrugal isn’t incredibly comprehensive. However, according to BeFrugal, you can earn up to 40% cash back at more than 5,000 stores, which is what makes this platform stand out.

Earning cash back is also simple. Once you create a free BeFrugal account, you browse the website or Android and iOS app to find brands to shop. When you want to shop at a partner store, BeFrugal redirects you to their website. After you make a purchase, you earn cash back. If you use Rakuten, another popular cash-back rewards website, it’s the same process.

Cash back accumulates in your BeFrugal account once the retailer verifies your purchase, which typically takes around seven days. You withdraw cash back through check, direct deposit, PayPal, or Venmo or choose free gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Kohl’s, Starbucks, and Walmart. There’s no minimum requirement for direct deposit, PayPal, and Venmo. Most electronic gift card rewards start at $5. Cashing out by check requires $25.

Some notable grocery partners include:

  • Instacart
  • Postmates
  • Sam’s Club
  • Target
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

Instacart and Postmates are notable because online grocery shoppers can also use BeFrugal to earn cash back. Plus, new BeFrugal members get a $10 sign-up bonus if they earn cash back within one year of joining.

If you’re only looking for grocery coupons, other mobile apps are better choices. But for online grocery delivery and other online shopping, BeFrugal is a reliable way to score cash-back rewards and save. At the very least, use the $10 bonus to offset some of the delivery cost.

11. Mealime

One common way to overspend on groceries is to let good food go to waste.

According to a 2020 study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, the average U.S. family wastes an astonishing 31.9% of the food they buy. That translates to annual U.S. consumer food waste of approximately $240 billion (about $740 per person). And every time you waste food, you waste money, which also offsets any progress you’re making with your grocery savings.

Food waste is either a sign of overspending or a lack of meal planning. If you want to reduce food waste, the first step is to understand what’s in your kitchen and utilize every ingredient.

Thankfully, Mealime helps you stay on track with recipe planning, letting you shop efficiently. With Mealime, you plan weeks of meals in just a few minutes and can choose recipes to fit over 200 different preferences and dietary restrictions. You can also add your own recipes by importing recipes from website URLs, using the Mealime browser extension, or entering ingredients and directions manually.

Once you create a meal plan, a grocery list automatically generates to save even more time. Plus, since Mealime knows how many people you’re cooking for, its grocery lists reduce food waste by making sure you don’t over-shop, saving more money per year.

Mealime is available for Android and iOS. Most features are free, and the $5.99-per-month pro version provides nutritional information and exclusive recipes and lets you view your previous meal plans.

Ultimately, Mealime isn’t as comprehensive as meal-planning services like $5 Dinners that send out weekly hand-picked recipes to suit your tastes. But if you’re confident in the kitchen and want to simplify grocery shopping and avoid wasting food, Mealime is the perfect app.

Even reducing your food waste costs by $10 per month is $120 in annual savings. And you can take comfort knowing you’re being a more socially responsible consumer.

12. SnipSnap

If you currently shop with paper coupons, SnipSnap is the perfect solution to simplify your life and to avoid forgetting coupons at home.

Once you download SnipSnap for Android or iOS, you take pictures of your paper coupons to transform them into digital coupons on your phone. You don’t have to waste time clipping coupons, and SnipSnap can digitize any printed coupon offer you have.

Additionally, SnipSnap has other helpful features:

  • In-Store Reminders. SnipSnap sends a push notification if you enter a store and have eligible coupons you can use.
  • Discover Feature. If you don’t have coupons, the discover tab lets you snip coupons from SnipSnap’s featured coupon catalog. You can also search its database to find store-specific coupons.
  • Expiration Warnings. SnipSnap notifies you when your coupons are close to expiring.
  • Store Success Rating. Check coupon success scores for different retailers to gauge how easy it is to redeem coupons at various retailers.

The in-store reminders feature is handy since it helps ensure you use as many coupons as possible when you shop, saving you more money. Plus, you can find digital coupons to avoid printing coupons, saving you money on ink.

Ultimately, SnipSnap is the modern version of a coupon book.

13. Dosh

One downside of many rebate apps is that you have to preselect products before shopping to earn rewards. That requires time, and if you forget to preselect offers before shopping, you don’t earn a penny.

Thankfully, Dosh takes the traditional rebate model and makes it passive. Once you link the credit and debit cards you shop with to your Dosh account, you automatically earn cash back for shopping at hundreds of Dosh partners. There’s no need to preselect offers or scan receipts since Dosh monitors your spending once you link your cards.

Dosh also works with popular grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and supplement stores like:

  • GNC
  • Instacart
  • Kroger
  • Sam’s Club
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Uber Eats

Additionally, Dosh partners with numerous fast-food chains, clothing stores, and cosmetics companies and adds new partners regularly so you can earn for a variety of purchases.

You withdraw cash back once you reach $25. Redemption options include direct deposit, PayPal Cash, and Venmo. Cash-back rewards vary between brands and are subject to change. But you typically earn an additional 1% to 2% from most partners. Dosh rewards are also stackable with cash-back credit card rewards and coupons.

Exclusively shopping for groceries with Dosh means it will likely take months to reach $25. But if you use linked cards for all your spending, you can reach the $25 redemption minimum more quickly.

Dosh is free for Android and iOS. If you want a humble source of passive income that helps you save money on groceries and everyday purchases, Dosh deserves a spot on your smartphone.

Read our Dosh review for more information.

14. Shopkick

Shopkick is a mix between a rewards app and mystery shopping side gig. With Shopkick, you earn kicks, the in-app point system, by completing various tasks, including:

  • Walking into specific stores
  • Purchasing certain products and uploading a receipt with the Shopkick app
  • Scanning product bar codes
  • Watching videos
  • Shopping online through the Shopkick app
  • Linking your credit card to Shopkick and making purchases at eligible stores

A typical grocery trip with Shopkick might have several opportunities to earn. For example, you earn 15 kicks for walking into a Walmart, 10 kicks for scanning the bar code for Huggies diapers, and 120 kicks for buying a Shopkick offer of Jack Link’s beef jerky.

It takes 250 kicks to get to $1, and you can redeem most rewards at 500 kicks. Shopkick lets you redeem kicks for PayPal cash or free gift cards to retailers like:

  • Amazon
  • Best Buy
  • eBay
  • Nike
  • Sephora
  • Starbucks
  • Target
  • Walmart

Rebate apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 usually have higher-paying offers than Shopkick. But Shopkick is unique because you can earn rewards without spending money through tasks like walking into stores or scanning bar codes. If you want a versatile and potentially free way to save on groceries, you can stack Shopkick with other rewards apps to earn rewards even faster.


Final Word

The most effective ways to save money on groceries start at home. Creating a family meal plan, reducing food waste, and getting creative with leftovers can help you make the most of what you buy. If you also shop at less expensive grocery stores, like Kroger instead of Whole Foods, you’re also taking steps to cut costs.

But apps that help you save money on groceries are worth using. You also don’t have to download every grocery app that’s out there. Diligently using one rewards app is better than downloading several apps you never open.

Pick one or several grocery apps that catch your eye and take an evening to create accounts for them.

You can also get creative and try other methods to save money at the grocery store and beyond. For example, GetUpside lets you earn cash back on gas and select grocery stores. Similarly, if you order groceries or meal delivery kits online, you can earn cash back by shopping with Rakuten.

Over time, you’ll discover which apps work best for your area and favorite stores and avoid paying full price ever again.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How Does Non-Farm Payroll (NFP) Affect the Markets?

What Is Nonfarm Payroll?

A nonfarm payroll is an economic report used to describe the number of Americans employed in the United States, excluding farm workers and select other U.S. workers, including some government employees, private household employees, and non-profit organization workers.

Known as “the jobs report” the nonfarm payroll looks at the jobs gained and lost during the previous month.

The US Nonfarm Payroll Report Explained

The NFP report studies US employment via two main surveys by the US government of private employers and government entities.

•  The U.S. Household Survey. This report breaks down the employment numbers on a demographic basis, studying the jobs rate by race, gender, education, and age.

•  The Establishment Survey. The result of this survey tracks the amount of jobs by industry as well as the number of hours worked and average hourly earnings.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics then combines the data from those reports and issues the updated figures via the nonfarm payroll report on the first Friday of every month, and some call the week leading up to the report “NFP week.” Economists view the report as a key economic indicator of the US economy.

How Does NFP Affect the Markets?

Many investors watch the nonfarm payroll numbers very closely as a measure of market risk. Surprise numbers can create potentially large market movements in key sectors like stocks, bonds, gold, and the US dollar, depending on the monthly release numbers.

Investors create a strategy based on how they think markets will behave in the future, so they attempt to factor their projections for jobs report numbers into the price of different types of investments. Changing or unexpected numbers, however, could prompt them to change their strategy.

If the nonfarm payroll number reflects a robust employment sector, for example, that could lead to a rise in US stock market values along with a hike in the US dollar relative to other global currencies. If the nonfarm payroll points to a downward-spiraling job sector, however, with declining wages and low employment growth, that could portend a stock market downturn and the US dollar could also decline in value, as investors lose confidence in the US economy and adjust their investment portfolios accordingly.

4 Figures From the NFP Report to Pay Attention To

Investors look specifically at several figures within the jobs report:

The Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate is central to US economic health, and it’s a factor in the Federal Reserve’s assessment of the nation’s financial health and the potential for a future recession. A rising unemployment rate could result in economic policy adjustments (like higher or lower interest rates), which could impact the financial markets, domestically and globally.

Higher-than-expected unemployment could push investors away from stocks and toward assets that they consider more safe, such as gold, potentially triggering a stock market correction.

Employment Sector Activity

The nonfarm payroll report also examines employment activity in specific business sectors, like manufacturing or the healthcare industry. Any significant rise or fall in sector employment can impact financial market investment decisions on a sector-by-sector basis.

Average Hourly Wages

Investors may look at average hourly pay as a good barometer of overall US economic health. Rising wages point to stronger consumer confidence, and to a stronger economy overall. That scenario could lead to a stronger stock market, but it may also indicate future inflation.

A weaker hourly wage figure may be taken as a negative sign by investors, leading them to reduce their stock market positions and seek shelter in the bond market, or buy gold as a hedge against a declining US economy.

Revisions in the Nonfarm Payroll Report

Nonfarm payroll figures, like any specific economic benchmarks, are dynamic in nature and change all the time. Thus, investors watch any revisions to previous nonfarm payroll assessments to potentially re-evaluate their own portfolios based on changing employment numbers.

How to Trade the Nonfarm Payroll Report

While long-term investors typically do not need to pay attention to any single jobs report, those who take a more active, trading approach may want to adjust their strategy based on new data about the economy. If you fall into the latter camp, you’ll typically want to make sure that the report is a factor that you consider, though not the only one.

You’ll want to look at other economic statistics as well as the technical and fundamental profiles of individual securities that you’re planning to buy or sell. Then, you’ll want to devise a strategy that you’ll execute based on your research, your expectations about the jobs report, and whether you believe it indicates a bull or a bear market ahead.

For example, if you expect the nonfarm payroll report to be a positive one, with robust jobs growth, you might consider adding stocks to your portfolio, as they tend to appreciate faster than other investment classes after good economic news. If you believe the nonfarm payroll report will be negative, you may consider more conservative investments like bonds or bond funds, which tend to perform better when the economy is slowing down.

Or, you might opt to take a more long-term approach, taking the opportunity to potentially get stocks at a discount and invest while the market is down.

The Takeaway

Markets do move after nonfarm payroll reports, but long-term investors don’t have to make changes to their portfolio after every new government data dump. That said, active investors may use the jobs report as one factor in creating their investment strategy.

Whatever your strategy, a great way to start executing it is via the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. It allows you to build your own portfolio, consisting of stocks, exchange-traded funds, and other investments such as IPOs and crypto currency. You can get started with an initial investment of as little as $5.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
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Source: sofi.com

11 Foods That Can Keep for Years

Woman shopping for groceries
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

If you hadn’t previously thought about how you would build up a food supply for an emergency, the coronavirus pandemic probably made you consider it.

What kinds of foods are best to keep in the pantry and freezer in case of a natural disaster, zombie apocalypse or pandemic that drags on for more than a couple of weeks?

Start with the following options. These foods can last for years before going bad.

1. Oats

This prolific cereal grain and staple of many American breakfast tables can last up to 30 years, according to the Utah State University Extension.

Store oats in airtight containers in a cool, dark, dry place. To maximize shelf life, use oxygen absorber packets.

2. White rice

Also known as polished rice, white rice has a shelf life of 25 to 30 years when properly stored. That’s why we included it in “20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling.”

The best temperature for storing this grain is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. The best container is one that is sealed and oxygen-free.

3. Popcorn

Unpopped kernels can last two years, according to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Best storage is at room temperature.

4. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate lasts up to two years if properly stored, according to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

It should be stored in a tightly sealed containers and at a temperature of 65 to 70 degrees. Keep it in a dry location as well. Do not refrigerate it, because the sugar can rise to the surface and give the chocolate a whitish appearance.

5. Honey

Winnie-the-Pooh’s favorite can remain stable indefinitely, according to the National Honey Board. However, a two-year shelf life is standard.

The trade group explains:

“Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, honey is susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage; it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor or crystallize. These are temperature-dependent processes, making the shelf life of honey difficult to define.”

6. Powdered milk

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodKeeper storage guide, powdered milk can last three to five years — but keeps only three months once the package has been opened.

For best storage, keep at cool temperatures in a dark location.

7. Dried beans

Dried beans and lentils have a shelf life of up to 30 years or more when stored properly, according to the Utah State University Extension. However, for best color and flavor, they should be used within 12 months.

The best method of storage is in No. 10 cans or Mylar-type bags with the oxygen removed, and keep the beans at a colder temperature.

8. Certain cheeses

Low-moisture, hard cheese can last from 10 months to several years, reports Dairy Foods Magazine. For example, the typical shelf life for Parmesan is up to five years, and that of aged cheddar is up to 10 years.

The Food Network has a handy how-to on best practices for cheese storage.

9. Canned foods

Generally, commercially canned foods that are canned in liquid should maintain their best quality until their expiration date, which is usually two to five years from the manufacture date, according to the Utah State University Extension.

Note that unopened home-canned foods have a shorter shelf life — one year — and should be used before two years. The USU Extension explains:

“Commercially canned foods are superior to home canned for food storage. Commercial canners can closely control quality and safety to produce the best product.”

When buying canned foods, avoid cans that are:

  • Rusted
  • Dented
  • Scratched
  • Bulging

10. Frozen foods

That succotash that’s been in your freezer for years might not taste amazing, but it’s perfectly safe and likely still nutritious — assuming your freezer has been kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foods frozen at that temperature remain safe almost indefinitely, and freezer storage has little to no effect on food nutrient value. Quality is a different matter, but the USDA has a handy storage chart showing how long different frozen foods maintain their quality.

The USDA recommends storing frozen food in packaging that keeps air out.

11. Sugar

How long does the sweet stuff last? Domino Sugar says:

“Sugar, properly stored, has an indefinite shelf life because it does not support microbial growth.”

However, Domino adds that sugar is best when used within three years of purchase. Powdered sugar is best when used within two years of purchase.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com