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

Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card – 3/2/1% Cashback & No Annual Fee

Bank of America’s Cash Rewards card, now called Customized Cash Rewards, has no annual fee and offers 1% cash back on all purchases; 2% or 3% on select categories. It’s notable that there’s also a Secured version of the card which is very similar to the ordinary version and is one of the best secured cards available.

Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card

Card Details

  • No annual fee
  • A minimum refundable security deposit of $300 (maximum of $4,900) is required to open this account.
    • Your maximum credit limit will be determined by the amount of the security deposit you provide, your income and your ability to pay the credit line established. If you provide a deposit that exceeds the calculated maximum amount based on your ability to pay, a check will be returned to you for the difference.
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • Rewards earnings rates go as follows:
    • 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings
    • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • You’ll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1% with no limit. Each month, as you plan for future purchases, to change your 3% choice category you must go to Online Banking or use the Mobile Banking App. Rewards do not expire.
  • Cash rewards can be redeemed as a statement credit to your credit or a deposit to your Bank of America checking, savings, or Merrill investing account.
  • 23.99% APR
  • No signup bonus on the Secured card version

Our Verdict

Not many Secured cards come with no annual fee and still offer rewards. There are a few other option that offer the same, though the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card is from a major bank and could be helpful in establishing a relationship with the bank. Bank of America also offers a Secured version of their Unlimited Cash Rewards card, so be sure to compare which is best for you. The Discover secured card is another good option for a secured card. All of these are solid options for someone who is struggling to get a credit card and wants to build a credit history.

Hat tip to reader Cyan

Source: doctorofcredit.com

How to Find Felon-Friendly Apartments After Getting Out of Jail

Yes, you can rent an apartment as a felon — just do your research.

Do you have a felony on your record and happen to need a new place to rent? Well, it may seem daunting to try and find a place that won’t require a background check but it is possible to find felon-friendly apartments.

No background check apartments are rarer but they do exist and are a great option for renters with a not-so-appealing stain on their background. Let’s dive into how to find felon-friendly apartments if you have a record.

Can I rent an apartment if I have a felony record?

Apartment for rent sign.

The short answer is yes, you can rent an apartment with a felony record. However, renting an apartment with a felony record is tricky because almost every landlord or apartment complex runs background checks on future tenants.

They’ll often check everything from your credit score to your criminal history, so it’s best to share with the landlord that you have a felony — it will definitely show up. Unfortunately, landlords can reject your application on the spot if they see a felony.

While some may do this, there are some landlords that will look past it.

How to find apartments that accept felons

Starting the search for apartments that accept felons is overwhelming. It’s difficult to know where to look, what to put on your application, what to leave out of your application and how much to disclose.

The best thing to do is to educate yourself and know where to start looking and how to best prepare for the application process. Here are four tips for finding felon friendly apartments:

1. Search for no background check apartments

Criminal background check.

A great place to start is by searching for apartments that don’t run a background check. While many apartments include a background check as part of the standard application process, not all do. This is great news for you as you’ll be able to apply for the rental without having to worry about your felony appearing on the background check portion of the application process.

You can also take the time to search for “second chance rentals.” Here, you’ll be able to find listings that don’t typically ask for background checks and are often felon-friendly apartments. Everyone needs a place to live and there are landlords who are willing to give felons that second chance they need to get back on their feet, find stable housing and have a place to call home.

2. Find an individual landlord

Another way to go about finding apartments that have no background check is to search for individual landlords or private renters as opposed to apartment complexes.

By having an individual landlord, you’ll be able to take the time to discuss your situation one-on-one. Be honest and upfront about your background check. By doing this, they may look past your felony as they get to know you personally and not purely based on your background check.

A realtor is also a good way to find places to rent. They have different resources and may already know where to look for you. Using a realtor may cost money compared to looking on your own, but, you’ll likely be able to find a place to rent more quickly and get settled into a new home right away.

3. Use local and national resources

There are many local and national resources that help those who have felonies get housing. Start by looking into your local non-profits and see if there are any programs that help people with felonies get back on their feet.

A great place to get help is with The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development aka HUD. They offer low-income housing to those in need and also have a list specifically for felon-friendly apartments.

Another place to seek help is with The Lion Heart Foundation. Their goal is to help give people the tools to restart their lives. On their website, they have a list of felon-friendly apartments in every state. Again, by starting your search with places that’ll work for you right away, you’ll save time and stress in the house-hunting process.

4. Be prepared for a more challenging application process

Handshaking over a contract.

Being prepared for the application process is crucial in finding apartments that accept felons. Here are some ways you can better prepare yourself:

  • Write a letter: Handwritten letters are personal and convey a sense of caring. Take the time to write the landlord your story. This way they can start to feel a personal connection. Also, telling your story about your felony and how you’ve changed might make it so they don’t reject your application right off the bat.
  • Have a character witness: Landlords want to make sure they’re renting to good tenants who pay on time and don’t cause trouble. Having someone else vouch for you and your good character is very helpful in convincing a landlord to rent to you.
  • Offer to pay more: Whether it’s a higher security deposit or maybe two months’ rent upfront, paying more might help you to rent an apartment. This also shows that you are serious about renting and can pay on time.

Finding a home

While finding a felon-friendly apartment is difficult, it’s not impossible. There are several different resources and tools to use when searching for a new home.

Having the knowledge of where to start and who to ask for help is the best place to start. By knowing what you’re getting into, the experience will be less stressful and daunting. Like anything, it might seem overwhelming but you can do it!

Source: rent.com

Where to Find Cheap or Free Tutoring for Your Kids

Whether your kid is struggling to read or to understand advanced calculus, some additional one-on-one instruction can make a world of difference. That’s why parents hire tutors — to boost their kids’ academic progress beyond the constraints of the school day.

But finding the funds to pay a tutor can be tough for a family on a budget. Costs vary, but it’s not unheard of to spend between $40 and $80 … per hour. And if your child is really struggling, chances are you’re going to need way more than one hour.

Here are some alternative ways to get educational assistance, even free tutoring, without breaking the bank.

6 Low-Cost or Free Tutoring Options

1. Get Extra Help With an Online Tutor

Online tutors don’t need a brick-and-mortar building, and they eliminate the need for anyone to commute. Everything is accessible with the click of a mouse. Your screen is your virtual whiteboard.

Some free or low-cost online tutoring websites include:

  • Khan Academy — a nonprofit organization that provides a wide range of free lessons to students all over the world.
  • Learn to Be — a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that provides free one-on-one tutoring to K-12 students in underserved communities.
  • Chegg Study — a 24/7 tutoring service for high school and college students where you pay $14.95 a month for expert homework help from a variety of subjects including math, science, engineering and business.
  • Free Tutoring Center — a student-run service that provides free one-on-one tutoring to elementary and middle schoolers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • UPchieve — a free online tutoring app where volunteer tutors provide academic help in various math and science subjects. This service also offers free college counseling.
  • Varsity Tutors — an education platform that offers free large group classes and free learning tools for self-study. For more individualized help, Varsity Tutors charges for one-on-one tutoring and small group classes.
  • Outschool — an online learning platform that has a variety of classes for kids ages 3 to 18. Filter your class search by price to find offerings for $9 or less.

2. Browse Your Library’s Offerings

If you’re only using your library card to check out books, you’re likely missing out on all the neat opportunities your library has to offer. Some tutoring companies like Tutor.com and Brainfuse partner directly with public libraries to provide free online tutoring to students.

Ask your librarian about what your local branch offers. Outside of partnering with an online service, your library might host free or low-cost test prep or homework help. Your librarian might also know of students or teachers who offer affordable tutoring. At the very least, you can get pointed in the direction of helpful reference books and research materials related to your child’s topic of study.

3. Go Back to School

Sometimes the best place to get help is directly from your child’s teacher. He or she already knows your child’s unique challenges and learning style and is invested in seeing your kid improve.

Schedule a parent/teacher meeting to ask about opportunities for extra instruction. The teacher may be free to help your child during a study hall period, and you can bypass paying for a Saturday afternoon tutoring session.

Also, ask if there’s a peer tutoring program at school where older students or students excelling in a particular subject volunteer to aid those who need extra help.

Consider that the help may come from outside your kid’s individual school. National Honor Society members at the local high school might have an outreach program that would benefit your struggling middle schooler. Community colleges sometimes have academic resources available for high school students at low or no cost.

4. Be Selective About After-School Programs

Until kids are old enough to go home to an empty house, working parents often turn to after-school programs and extracurriculars. While karate practice and dance lessons sound fun, your kid won’t be working on math equations or language arts.

You can save money by choosing an after-school program that includes tutoring services. The Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA are two national youth nonprofits that often provide help with homework or studying for tests.

5. Call on Your Community for One-on-One Tutoring

Don’t underestimate the power of your social circle. Your friends or coworkers may know of organizations in your city that provide free or low-cost tutoring.

Ask the parents of your kids’ friends for recommendations on affordable tutors. An older sibling of your child’s best friend might be a math whiz. You may be able to barter with a classmate’s mom, exchanging tutoring sessions for free babysitting.

6. Give Into Screen Time on YouTube

Now this last one isn’t quite tutoring in the traditional sense, but you can turn to YouTube for almost anything these days — including K-12 subject matter. In most cases, you’ll be able to access instructional videos at no cost.

Has physics or chemistry got your kid down? Check out these YouTube science channels. This list of YouTube history channels may help students master the details of major world events.

The video-sharing platform just might get your kids to see their worst subject in a new light and find learning — dare I say it? — fun.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Here’s What You Need to Know About Investing in 2021

Here’s a good question for the new year: Is 2021 a good time to invest in stocks?

In turbulent times like these, it’s hard to know the right financial moves to make. A lot of the tried-and-true advice we’ve always relied on doesn’t seem relevant anymore. Is now a good time to invest? Should I focus on paying off debt? Or saving?

It’s helpful to consult with a pro. So we asked Robin Hartill, a certified financial planner, as well as an editor and financial advice columnist for The Penny Hoarder, for advice.

Here are six financial questions we’ve been getting from readers lately:

1. ‘The Cost of Waiting is High’

Question: “Is 2021 a good time to invest, or should I wait the market out?”

Hartill’s advice: Take the long view. The stock market will grow your money over time, so you might as well get started sooner rather than later.

“The timing of your investment matters much less than how much time you have to invest,” Hartill says. “The S&P 500 has delivered inflation-adjusted returns of about 7% per year on average for the past 50 years. The cost of waiting for the perfect time to invest is high. You’re missing out on long-term growth.”

Profitable investing is all about taking the long view. Not sure how to get started? With an app called Stash, you can get started with as little as $1.* It lets you choose from hundreds of stocks and funds to build your own investment portfolio. It makes it simple by breaking them down into categories based on your personal goals.

“If you were hoping to make a quick buck off the stock market, now may not be a great time,” Hartill said. “We’re still in a recession, but the stock market has recovered. But true investing isn’t about making a quick buck. It’s about growing your money over time.”

She recommends budgeting a certain amount of money to invest each month, no matter what.

If you sign up for Stash now (it takes two minutes), Stash will give you $5 after you add $5 to your investment account. Subscription plans start at $1 a month.**

2. ‘There’s Only So Much Fat You Can Cut’

Question: “My monthly expenses keep going up. Anything I can do?”

“There’s only so much fat you can cut from your budget. Eventually, you start chipping away at muscle and bone,” Hartill said. “Cutting costs is often a good way to meet your shorter-term goals, like saving for a vacation or a down payment. But for the really big long-term goals like retirement and protecting your family from a worst-case scenario, cutting back only goes so far.”

If you need to cut back, though, take a hard look at your mandatory monthly bills — like car insurance. When’s the last time you checked prices? You should shop around your options every six months or so.

And if you look through a digital marketplace called SmartFinancial, you could be getting rates as low as $22 a month — and saving yourself more than $700 a year. 

It takes one minute to get quotes from multiple insurers, so you can see all the best rates side-by-side. Yep — in just one minute you could save yourself $715 this year. That’s some major cash back in your pocket.

So if you haven’t checked car insurance rates in a while, see how much you can save with a new policy.

3. ‘If You Have Your Spending in Check… ’

Question: “My budget is tight. What debt should I focus on paying off?”

“The only way to get out of debt is by spending less than you earn,” Hartill said. “But if you have your spending in check, a debt-consolidation loan can help you shed your debt faster.”

She added a caveat: “This option only makes sense if it lowers your interest payments. Many people who don’t have good credit actually find that the interest rate they’re approved for is even higher than what they’re currently paying.”

There’s a quick way to find out if this would work out for you. It takes just a couple of minutes to check out your options on a website called AmOne. If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, it’ll match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online.

4. ‘You Don’t Have to Settle for Nothing’

Question: “My savings account bottomed out. Any other ways to make passive income right now?”

“Although interest rates will stay low until at least 2023, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for earning nothing on your savings,” Hartill said.

Most banks are paying account holders virtually no interest on their savings these days. Try switching to an Aspiration account. It lets you earn up to 5% cash back every time you swipe the card and up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account. Plus, you’ll never pay a monthly account maintenance fee.

To see how much you could earn, enter your email address here, link your bank account and add at least $10 to your account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

5. ‘Most of Us Don’t Earn Enough’

Question: “How can I possibly earn enough to ever retire?”

Hartill shared a brutal truth with us: “The overwhelming majority of us don’t earn enough to get to save our way to retirement.”

Ouch, that hurts. But wait, she offers a solution: “Spending money by investing it in the stock market and earning returns that compound into even more money.”

“If you need a $500,000 nest egg to retire, you’d have to trim $10,000 from your budget for 50 years straight to get there through savings alone. But if you invested just $5,000 a year and earned 6% returns, you’d get there in less than 34 years.”

6. ‘The Only Practical Way to Give Your Family Security’

Question: “I have a family. How can I make sure they’re protected in these uncertain times?”

“Spending money on life insurance is the only practical way to give your family the security they deserve,” Hartill said. “Your life insurance needs are greatest when you have young children. Fortunately, this is often a time when you’re still young enough that life insurance is relatively inexpensive.”

Maybe you’re thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But this takes minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

We hear people are paying as little as $8 a month. (But every year you wait, this gets more expensive.)

It takes just minutes to get a free quote and see how much life insurance you can leave your loved ones — even if you don’t have seven figures in your bank account.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He is not a certified financial planner, but he has stayed in a Holiday Inn Express.

*For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.

**You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.



Source: thepennyhoarder.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

What Is the 70/20/10 Budget Rule?

Living paycheck to paycheck leaves no room for saving, investing, paying down debt or donating to causes you care about. But a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle isn’t always the result of not earning enough money.

A February 2020 survey from Willis Towers Watson found that nearly 20% of six-figure earners lived a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. A lack of a solid money management strategy can often be the culprit.

When you spend-spend-spend without a plan, it’s easy to quickly blow through your money with no relief until the next payday.

That’s where the 70/20/10 budgeting method comes in to disrupt that paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. The 70/20/10 budget is a percentage-based money management style that helps you make room for saving, investing, paying down debt and donating.

How the 70/20/10 Budget Rule Works

Following the 70/20/10 rule of budgeting, you separate your take-home pay into three buckets based on a specific percentage.

Seventy percent of your income will go to monthly bills and everyday spending, 20% goes to saving and investing and 10% goes to debt repayment or donation.

Use 70% of Your Income for Monthly Spending

With this budgeting plan, 70% of your net income (the money you make after taxes and other payroll deductions) will go to expenses such as:

  • Mortgage payments or rent
  • Utilities
  • Phone bill
  • Internet bill
  • Car note
  • Car insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Credit card bill
  • Student loan bill
  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Dining out
  • Entertainment
  • Clothing
  • Personal care items
  • Child care
  • Medical costs
  • Travel costs
  • Gifts

You don’t have to get into specifics on what percentage you’ll spend in each of your budget categories. If you want to spend a large portion of this money on traveling and eating out, you’re totally free to do so (as long as your bills and necessities are covered, of course).

Set 20% Aside for Saving and Investments

Set up your future self for success. Following the 70/20/10 rule, you’ll divert 20% of your pay to saving and investing. This could include:

If you have little to no money in your savings account for emergencies, ideally you should focus on building up your emergency fund until you have enough to cover three to six months of essential expenses.

However, it’s also okay to save money for multiple savings goals at the same time. You may feel like retirement is a long way away but it’s best to start as early as possible to take advantage of the power of compounding.

Earmark 10% of Your Take-Home Pay for Debt or Donating

The remaining 10% of your income will go to either paying off debt or donating (or both). You might want to:

  • Pay down credit card debt
  • Make extra payments toward your student loans
  • Reduce the principal on your mortgage
  • Pay off outstanding medical debts
  • Repay personal loans
  • Tithe to your house of worship
  • Donate to a cause you care about
  • Give money to your college alma mater

You should be covering your minimum bill payments with the 70% of your income reserved for monthly expenses. This money, however, is for making additional payments that’ll help you crush your debt faster.

If you’ve got multiple debts you’re working to pay off, consider using the debt snowball or the debt avalanche methods. With the snowball method, you’ll start with the debt with the lowest balance. With the avalanche method, you’ll first focus on the debt with the highest interest rate.

If you are debt free, use the extra cash to give to organizations or causes that matter to you. Many budgeting plans don’t specifically factor in donating, which makes the 70/20/10 method unique.

An Example of the 70/20/10 Budget

You do have to do a little bit of math to figure out how much money to set aside for each of these three main categories, but it’s simple.

Just whip out the calculator app on your phone and multiply your monthly income by 0.7 to figure out how much money you can spend each month. Multiply your take-home pay by 0.2 to determine how much you’ll save, and multiply your earnings by 0.1 to find out how much to put toward debt or to donate.

For example, if you made $4,000 a month, your monthly budget would look like this:

  • $2,800 would go to covering your living expenses
  • $800 would go toward savings or investments, and
  • $400 would go toward debt or donations

Once you’ve come up with those three amounts, use the money in each category how it best works for you.

How the 70/20/10 Budget Compares to the 50/30/20 Budget

The 70/20/10 budget is similar to another money management method you may have heard about — the 50/30/20 budget. With the 50/30/20 rule, half your income goes to needs, 30% goes to wants and 20% goes to savings and other financial goals like investing or paying off debt.

These two budgeting methods are both percentage-based budgets. They divide your take-home pay into three broad categories. And they prioritize saving money and contributing positively to your financial future.

However, the 70/20/10 budget rule does not separate needs from wants when it comes to spending. It also stands apart by designating a portion of your pay to go toward donations or giving to others.

The Benefits of the 70/20/10 Budget

There are some great benefits to using the 70/20/10 budget rule.

It’s a pretty simple money management method to follow — similar to the “spend-save-share” money jars for kids. Once you’ve separated your take-home pay into the three categories, you’re free to spend how you like without worrying that you’ll derail your savings goals or debt payoff plans.

While this budget has some structure, it’s not super strict or restrictive. You don’t have to zero in on exactly how you’ll spend every dollar.

Another benefit of this budgeting style is that it prioritizes your financial future. You’ll be building up your emergency fund, investing for retirement, paying down debt and giving back to others consistently.

The Downsides of the 70/20/10 Budget

Despite the benefits of this budgeting style, it’s not for everyone.

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck because you don’t earn enough money, you won’t be able to squeeze out 20% for saving or 10% for extra debt payments. This budgeting method is only for those who can realistically spare using 30% of their income on something beyond essential living expenses.

Conversely, if you’re someone who can comfortably spend less than 70% of their income and you want to use a much larger portion of your income to pay off debts or to save up to retire early, the 70/20/10 budget may not be the most fitting for you.

It’s also important to note that while some people appreciate a budget that isn’t rigid, others thrive better with more detailed guidance on how they should spend their money. They might prefer to set a limit on fun money spending or to have a specific goal for emergency fund contributions rather than setting aside a broad amount for all savings.

If you’re someone who often overspends on impulse buys, you might benefit from a more structured budget, like a zero-based budget.

5 Tips to Help You Be Successful With the 70/20/10 Budget

Put this advice to use to truly excel using the 70/20/10 budget.

1. Use Direct Deposit to Your Advantage

Set up separate bank accounts for each percentage bucket. One account will be for spending, one will be for savings and investing and the third will be for debt and donating. Adjust your direct deposit allocations to match the 70/20/10 rule.

2. Automate Your Bills

Put your bills on autopay with the date set for right after you’re paid. This way, your financial obligations are covered every month before you start spending on takeout or new shoes.

3. Track Your Spending

Since there is no further guidance on how you should spend that 70% of your income, it’s a good idea to track your spending so you know where your money is going. Review your spending periodically to make sure you’re striking a good balance between needs and wants. A budgeting app can help you keep track of your spending with little effort on your part. Using cash envelopes can be helpful to make sure you don’t overspend in certain categories.

4. Tweak the Percentages to Best Fit Your Situation

If you want to save a bit more, you might find value in making it the 65/25/10 budget. If you’re paying child care expenses for multiple kiddos, you might need to do an 80/10/10 breakdown.

5. Split up the 70% Pool When Budgeting With a Partner

After you’ve covered paying the bills and other necessities with your combined income, split the remainder of that 70% with your significant other. It could be a 50/50 split or you may choose to structure it based on how much each partner earns. Schedule regular budget meetings to collectively decide what to do with the 20% earmarked for savings and the 10% for debt or donations.

Final Thoughts

The 70/20/10 budget is a good way to manage your money if you want to put funds aside to better your financial future but you don’t want to be super restrictive about your spending.

By dividing your money using the specific percentages, you’re free to spend 70% of your paycheck without stressing whether you’re contributing enough to your emergency fund or making a dent in your debt.

This money management style is also great for those who are philanthropic and want to share a portion of their earnings with others.

Overall, the 70/20/10 method is a solid budget plan that’ll easily help you break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle so you can reach your financial goals.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Write Emails & Send Payment Reminders to Freelance Clients

If you freelance for long enough, you’ll eventually come across a client who doesn’t pay you on time. And while it’s not always intentional or malicious, a late payment can do a number on your own finances if you’re counting on being paid a certain amount by a specific due date.

Payment reminders or invoice follow-ups are a simple and effective preventative measure you can take to encourage busy clients to pay your invoices before they’re overdue.

What is a Payment Reminder?

A payment reminder is a message you send to clients to let them know an invoice due date is approaching or past due. Most often, payment reminders are sent via email, but they can also be sent through the mail or text message.

Most invoicing strategies involve sending more than one payment reminder, depending on how late a payment is.

When to Send Payment Reminders

There are three ideal times to send payment reminders to clients:

  • One day before an invoice is due
  • One to three days after an invoice is due
  • Seven days after an invoice is due

After the one-week mark, you can continue to send invoice reminders, but you may have to consider the other options you have for dealing with a nonpaying client.

If they haven’t responded to you by then, it’s time to reach out to your other contacts at the company and determine how you want to proceed.

Payment Reminder Email Templates for Freelancers

Depending on how late a client is, the messaging you use in your payment reminder will change. Use these templates to create your own standard messaging for invoice follow-ups to save time and create consistency across clients.

Payment Reminder Template: 1 Day Before an Invoice Is Due

The first email you send should be friendly and helpful. The invoice isn’t technically past due yet, so there’s no need to be aggressive or confrontational. This is a courtesy email to give the client a heads-up before the invoice is overdue.

Keep the tone light, friendly, and professional.

Subject Line: Payment Reminder for Invoice #[001] for [your business name]

Hi [client’s name],

This is a friendly reminder that invoice #[001] is due on [invoice due date]. The amount owed is [$100.00]. I have attached a copy of the invoice for your reference.

You can make payment via [your accepted payment methods]. Payments made after the due date may be subject to [applicable interest charges or late fees].

If you’ve already made a payment, please ignore this reminder.

Feel free to email me at [email address] or call [phone number] with any questions or concerns.


[your name]

Payment Reminder Template: 1 to 3 Days After an Invoice Is Due

Your next payment reminder doesn’t necessarily need to be less friendly, but it needs to be more to the point — especially if you received no response at all from your initial message.

There’s still a chance that your payment was missed because of a simple mistake or software error and not because the client is intentionally avoiding you.

While your tone should still be friendly and professional, you can be more direct when it comes to any consequences related to the past due amount. In this email, be more clear about the amount due, payment terms (like late fees), and how the client can make a payment.

The more clear you make this message, the fewer excuses a client has about why they haven’t paid you yet.

Subject Line: Payment Reminder for Past Due Invoice #[001] for [your business name]

Hi [client’s name],

I’m following up in regards to invoice #[001], which was due on [invoice due date]. The total amount owed is [$100.00] if paid by [grace period before interest charges or late fees are applied].

If payment is made after [the day the grace period ends], a [applicable late fee or interest charge] of [amount of late fee or interest rate] will be added to the total amount due.

I have attached a copy of the original invoice for your reference.

You can make payment in full via [accepted payment methods] to [payee name, email address, office address, etc.] as soon as possible. If you’ve already made a payment, please ignore this reminder.

Feel free to reach out to [email address] or [phone number] with any questions or concerns.

Thanks for your cooperation!

[your name]

Payment Reminder Template: 7 Days After an Invoice Is Due

This email is the most direct request for payment you’ll send. If you don’t feel comfortable being this forward after one week, you can use this template later in the process instead.

For example, you might send this message if you haven’t heard from the client for a full month after you sent your initial invoice.

Note that although this email is more candid than the others, it still needs to be professional and polite.

Subject Line: Payment Reminder for Past Due Invoice #[001] for [your business name]

Hi [client’s name],

This message is to inform you that payment for invoice #[001] is currently [one week] overdue. The total amount owed is [$115.00] including [applicable interest charges or late fees] of [$15.00].

Please make payment in full upon receipt of this message. If you’ve already made a payment, ignore this reminder.

I have attached a copy of the invoice for your reference. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at [email address] or [phone number].

Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

[your name]

After Payment Is Received

If your payment reminder works and you receive payment in full, it’s important to acknowledge it with a follow-up message. Showing your appreciation and confirming that your client’s no longer past due is a simple courtesy you can extend to maintain a good relationship.

After a client makes good on an overdue invoice, customize this template to create a thank-you note of your own.

Hi [client’s name],

I wanted to confirm that I received payment in full for invoice #[001] today. Thanks for resolving this issue so quickly, and I appreciate your cooperation!

I hope you have a great rest of the day and I look forward to working with you again in the future.


[your name]

5 Tips for Sending Payment Reminders

Sending payment reminders is a great way to encourage clients to pay you on time and in full, and there are a number of ways to increase the efficacy of these messages.

1. Be Polite and Professional

Regardless of how late a client is or what they say to you, keep your cool and make sure your client communications are polite and professional. Don’t let your frustration about an overdue invoice get the better of you.

If you do need to pursue the payment through another means down the road, such as mediation, collections, or small claims court, your paper trail will be used as proof of when and how you contacted the client. You don’t want those messages to be immature or inappropriate.

2. Automate Your Emails

While you can send payment reminders manually, freelancers with a lot of clients may have a hard time keeping track of when and to whom to send reminders.

Many invoicing software platforms automate payment reminders based on your invoices, such as:

Automating payment reminders saves you from having to track unpaid invoices yourself, meaning you can spend less time on the administrative tasks that come with running a small business.

3. Include Important Information

Payment reminder letters are only helpful if they include the right information. Each one you send should have:

  • The invoice number
  • The payment due date
  • The payment deadline
  • Payment options (such as PayPal, credit card, or check)
  • A copy of the original invoice attached
  • Your contact details, such as phone number, email address, and office address if applicable

The more information you provide, the easier it will be for your client to make payment without having to go back and forth, especially if they forward your email to their accounting department.

4. Use Multiple Methods

If you send three payment reminders to a client and get no response, change up your method of communication. Try making a phone call or reaching out to any other contacts you have at the company.

There’s a possibility that your contact was let go, had an emergency, or isn’t receiving your emails.

Sending your payment reminder to someone else could be all it takes to get an overdue payment addressed.

5. Keep Communication Records

Payment reminders are one of the freelance records you should keep for every client. Not only are they a simple way to track overdue payments, but they also come in handy if you need to pursue a more formal course of action in the future, like taking a client to small claims court or proving the debt to a collection agency.

When possible, send payment reminders through email because they’re easy to document. Phone calls, texts, and physical copies are harder to track and use as records.

The Benefits of Sending Payment Reminders

Payment reminders don’t just help your freelance business, they also help your clients. Include them in your invoicing process to:

1. Get Paid on Time

The biggest benefit of payment reminders is that they help you to get paid on time. Chances are, some of your clients are small-business owners or startups with a lot going on.

While that’s no excuse to miss sending in a payment, an invoice follow-up ensures that they get the reminder they need before they hit the overdue mark.

Some clients will even thank you for giving them a nudge because it means they’ll be able to avoid any applicable interest charges or late fees.

2. Round Out Your Invoicing Strategy

Most freelancers either make their own invoice templates or use an automated invoicing tool to detail their services and fees to clients on a regular basis. But as your freelance business grows, you’ll likely need to expand on that process to manage more clients and a heavier workload.

Payment reminders are a simple way to reduce the chances of late payments, helping you to have a more predictable and reliable cash flow.

3. Reinforce Your Payment Terms

Payment terms in freelance contracts, invoices, and quotes are virtually useless if you don’t enforce them.

Payment reminders not only refresh a client’s memory when it comes to an approaching or past invoice date, but they also act as a way to remind them of the consequences of late payments.

If you outlined interest charges, late fees, or other penalties in the payment terms in your contract, make sure to bring them up in your payment reminders. Clients will be grateful you helped them to avoid overages and you’ll be more likely to get paid promptly.

4. Help New Clients to Get on Track

Onboarding new clients often involves a lot of paperwork and back and forth. From negotiations about rate, terms, and scope to payment terms and contract length, a ton of important information is unloaded upfront.

This makes it easier for clients to miss small details like when you send out invoices and how long they have to pay you once they’ve been received.

Payment reminders give new clients a chance to get on track with your billing cycle and due dates by giving them advance notice of a looming payment deadline. Next time, they’ll have a better grasp of your expectations and will be more likely to meet them without needing a reminder.

Final Word

Freelancing probably came with more administrative and accounting tasks than you had hoped for, but these functions help you to have a stronger, more successful business.

If you have trouble getting paid on time, payment reminders are a great way to encourage clients to settle your invoices when they’re due, helping them to avoid late fees and improving your cash flow.

Develop a consistent and clear strategy and keep your messages polite and professional to get the most out of your payment reminders.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Money Talk: Sara Fujimura on the Importance of Talking About Money

Sara Fujimura, author of Faking Reality and Every Reason We Shouldn’t, discusses the challenges and successes she’s faced with finances as she navigated her writing career. 


Sara Fujimura, Interviewed by
July 15, 2021

https://12weekyear.com/)  to help me cull the ideas and decide where to put my focus each “year.” That way, I don’t have a big freak out every December. The system helps me go deeper on fewer things, and that’s how progress realistically happens.

  • I use Todoist (https://todoist.com/) to park all the tasks. Granted there are days when I have 25 things on my list, but at least I know they are all captured somewhere, even if it isn’t that project’s “year” yet.
  • I take my sometimes (okay, often) unrealistic To-Do list and pull a few of the highest-value tasks into a much more manageable list in my bullet journal. There are utilitarian bullet journals and ones that are mini art masterpieces. Mine is somewhere in between. My bujo contains To-Do lists done in colored pens in nice handwriting and decorated with washi tape. I will not be taking questions on the amount of washi tape I own. *cough*
  • MG: What do you like to spend money on that some people might consider a splurge or luxury?

    Travel. I would rather live a modest retirement with thousands of stories to reminisce about than retire with a billion dollars after working non-stop until retirement age. Though I would be okay with having a billion dollars *and* going on multiple vacations around the globe each year. Netflix, call me!

    Also, cute washi tape. Moving on.

    SF: What’s the best thing you’ve bought in the last few months?

    Renting an Air B&B up in Sedona for a long weekend with my husband and two grown kids. Being outside and hiking around the gorgeous red rocks recharged my spirit more than any expensive purse or shoes could have.

    MG: What’s the biggest money mistake you’ve ever made?

    Early in my writing career, I didn’t always write with a contract. I got burned so many times. Yes, it was for only a few hundred dollars each time, but the bigger issue was that I didn’t feel confident enough to insist on a contract.

    SF: Tell me a financial rule that you never break.

    Errr…how about I tell you the rule that has continued to plague me? It is the same problem as the previous answer, only in a different form: Undervaluing my work and giving away too much of my time, energy, and expertise. Yes, I want to be generous and helpful to others, but when a male counterpart is paid more than you for the same work (or worse, subpar work but done with chutzpah), you need to reevaluate your fee schedule. I get on my female friends regularly about undercharging for their products/services. I have lost count of the number of times I have overtipped or refused a discount because a businesswoman was undervaluing herself. This is where having a community is paramount.

    You need to know what the going rate is in your area. If you have a mastermind group with other women in your field, then I challenge your group to set an agreed-upon amount so that your price becomes the area’s norm, not the exception.

    My author mastermind group recently had a frank discussion about school visit fees, where I realized that my rates were way too low. Talking about money always feels squidgy, but we need to do it! 

    Source: quickanddirtytips.com

    Financial Advisor Student Loans

    A Guide to Student Loan Refunds

    admin 0 Comment

    Nobody wants student loan debt. Higher education can be a worthwhile pursuit but it can come with some hefty tuition, housing, and living expenses that many students and their parents need to take out student loans to cover.

    There is some good news regarding student loans that a lot of people don’t know about. Getting your hands on a student loan refund check is possible. This guide will break down what a student loan refund is, how to get one, and what to do with one.

    What Is a Student Loan Refund?

    To understand what a student loan refund is, it can be helpful to first look at what financial aid is and how it is distributed to students. When a student or their parent pursues federal financial aid, such as a student loan, that aid is distributed via a credit to the student’s account at their college.

    Private student loans are distributed differently depending on the lender’s preferences. Some private lenders may deliver the funds directly to the student in a mailed check.

    Others may choose to credit the student’s college account similar to how federal aid is distributed.

    Private or federal, this is where student loan refunds may come into play. Student financial aid can cover costs such as tuition, room and board, and fees.

    On occasion, an aid distribution can lead to there being an additional credit in the student’s college account.

    This happens if there is any excess money after paying for the necessary expenses. In that case, the student or parent will receive a student loan refund via a check or in the form of a direct deposit to their bank account.

    How To Get a Student Loan Refund

    Whether a student or a parent takes out a federal student loan, the process of getting a student loan refund will generally look similar. Each semester, the school will generally review student accounts to determine if there are any eligible credit balances that can be refunded to the student.

    In that case, the school has 14 days to issue a payment to the student if there is credit on their account. In some cases, schools may determine that credit balances should be applied to student’s future costs at the university.

    In some cases, if the credit is not a result of the student receiving financial aid, the school may require that students request a refund. Follow the refund request process as determined by the school you attend.

    In general, the school in question will contact the student or their parents in writing any time they distribute any loan money. The loan servicer will also provide confirmation that the loan money was delivered.

    Alongside this notice, borrowers will generally also receive information on how to cancel part or all of the student loans. If the borrower realizes they don’t need the full loan amount, this may be an option they want to pursue.

    Know that any amount refunded is still considered part of the total amount borrowed. So, borrowers who receive a portion of their student loans refunded would still be responsible for repaying that amount, with interest, if the refund is not canceled.

    If this is the case, when it comes to federal student loans, the borrower can cancel all or part of their loan within 120 days of receiving it. They will incur no interest during this time and no fees will be charged.

    The process of getting student loan refunds may vary when dealing with private lenders.

    Recommended: Is Paying Off Student Loans Early Always Smart?

    Common Refund Mistakes

    When it comes to student loan refunds, there are a few common pitfalls that students and their parents should avoid. Especially if they want to get their hands on a student loan refund check sooner rather than later.

    Moving too slow

    Requesting a student loan refund is a bit of a time sensitive process. If someone realizes they won’t need the full amount of a federal student loan awarded before the funds are disbursed, they can actually request the school cancel the check or deposit before the need to process a refund even arises.

    If the borrower realizes after distribution of a federal student loan that they don’t need all or any of the funds, they have 120 days post-disbursement to return the funds without incurring interest or fees.

    If a borrower misses both of these opportunities, the process of working with their school’s financial aid office to return the funds can become more complicated and time consuming.

    Not establishing a paper trail

    When making a student loan refund request, it may be a good idea to keep a paper trail of all requests and communication in order to establish a clear history of a desire to return the unused funds. If things get lost in translation (which could happen), having a paper trail can be extremely helpful.

    Over relying on student loans

    Some students and their parents lean too heavily on student loans and may be able to get a bigger refund if they can find another way to finance any qualified education expenses. Student loans can be used to pay for academic and living expenses for the student while they’re in school.

    However, pursuing other forms of financial support, such as a work-study program can allow students to send more of their aid funds back, which will leave them with less loans when they graduate.

    While it can be tempting to use a student loan refund to cover extra expenses like clothing and transportation—the less that is borrowed, the less that will be owed at graduation.

    What to Do With a Student Loan Refund

    When a student or their parent gets a student loan refund, they have two main options. They can keep it or return it. Typically, it may be beneficial in the long run to return the funds if they aren’t needed. Try to avoid viewing student loan disbursements as free money that can be spent on anything.

    This is money the borrower will have to pay back (with interest) and spending it on unnecessary expenses can be quite a disservice to the borrower.

    That being said, borrowers won’t have to submit any proof of what they spent the funds on, which is why it can be so easy to stray from only using it for qualified expenses.

    If the borrower chooses to keep the student loan refund check, or miss the deadline to return it, there are still some next steps available to them. One such option is to make a payment on their student loan balance.

    Even though federal student loans don’t require payment until the student graduates, this can be one way to cut down student loan debt. The borrower can also use those funds for expenses in the next term and as a result can choose to borrow less money for that term.

    Refinancing Student Loans

    All that hard work has finally paid off. It’s time to cross that graduation stage. Once graduation day rolls around, students and their parents will begin to think about how they want to manage and pay off their student loan debt.

    One option that can lead to saving money on interest and potentially expedite the repayment process is to refinance student loans.

    When someone refinances a student loan, they get a new loan at a new interest rate and/or a new term. If a borrower initially had more than one student loan, this leaves the borrower with only one monthly payment to make instead of multiple and in some cases can lead to a lower interest rate.

    The Takeaway

    Refinancing student loans with SoFi can help qualifying borrowers secure a competitive interest rate, and potentially save money in interest over the life of the loan. There are also no hidden fees. It’s time to send origination fees and prepayment penalties packing.

    Refinancing can be a solid solution for graduates who are working and have high interest, unsubsidized Direct Loans, Graduate PLUS loans, and/or private loans.

    It’s worth noting that when someone refinances their federal student loans, they will lose federal benefits such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and economic hardship protections, like deferment or forbearance.

    When someone refinances their student loans with SoFi, they also gain access to unique perks like career coaching and financial advice, at no cost to them.

    Learn more about student loan refinancing with SoFi and get a quote to see if you prequalify, and at what rates, in just a few minutes.

    Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
    SoFi Loan Products
    SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

    SoFi Student Loan Refinance
    Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

    External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
    Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


    Source: sofi.com