The Top 5 Reasons Seniors Stay Frugal in Retirement

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Countless workers scrimp and save for years with the goal of enjoying a comfortable retirement. Many of those folks do not abandon their penny-pinching ways once their golden years finally arrive.

Surprisingly, fear of running out of money is not the No. 1 factor that drives retirees to stay frugal, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI’s) Spending in Retirement Survey.

Instead, the survey — which asked 2,000 individuals ages 62 to 75 about their spending habits and their situation at and during retirement — found four more-common reasons that retirees keep their wallets shut.

The five reasons the retirees most often cited for not spending down assets are:

  1. Saving assets for an unforeseen cost later in retirement — 38%
  2. Feeling that spending down assets is unnecessary — 37%
  3. Wanting to leave as much as possible to heirs — 33%
  4. Simply feeling better when account balances remain high — 31%
  5. Fear of running out of money — 27%

Among these retirees, the average amount of current financial assets was $200,000, with a median of $75,000. More than two-thirds — 69% — said their standard of living is the same or higher than it was when they were working, and 61% believe their spending is appropriate for what they can afford.

The power of a fat nest egg should not be underestimated. Among survey respondents, 64% said saving as much as possible leaves them feeling happy and fulfilled. That finding seems to support recent research that has revealed that — contrary to common folk wisdom — having more money does indeed make people happier.

In fact, the retirees in the EBRI survey said they wish they had saved more for retirement. Just 18% said they saved more than was needed, while 46% reported saving less than they needed in retirement.

Saving for a great retirement

In life, it’s smart to learn from the wisdom of those who are in the place today that you are headed toward tomorrow. If many of today’s retirees wish they had saved more, chances are good you will feel the same way when you retire.

So, now is the time to begin building your retirement nest egg. The Money Talks News course The Only Retirement Guide You’ll Ever Need can get you off to a great start.

This 14-week boot camp offers everything you need to plan the rest of your life, know you’ll have enough money and make your retirement dreams a reality.

The course, intended for those who are 45 or older, can teach you everything from “Social Security secrets” to how to time your retirement.

For more tips on how to build and maintain a nest egg, check out “Your Top 5 Retirement Questions, Answered.”

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com

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

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express Review

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is a popular small business credit card with a fairly standard rewards program and no annual fee. Like many other Amex business credit cards, the rewards program is based on Membership Rewards, a proprietary portal that allows you to redeem for a wide range of merchandise and cash equivalents.

Blue Business Plus is meant for business owners with good to excellent credit. It competes with a number of other popular small business credit cards, including  Capital One Spark Miles for Business. Blue Business Plus also competes with American Express’s color-coded business card family, which includes the Plum Card, Business Green Rewards, Business Gold Rewards, and the Business Platinum Card.

Key Features

These are the most important features of the Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express.

Welcome Offer

Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of card membership.

Membership Rewards and Redemption

Get rewarded for business as usual. Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners. The 2X rate applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, and 1 point per dollar thereafter.

You can redeem accumulated Membership Rewards points for general merchandise, travel, transportation (including Uber rides), gift cards, statement credits, and other items at Amex’s Membership Rewards portal. Point values vary by redemption method, with merchandise generally worth $0.01 per point and statement credits worth $0.006 per point.

Introductory APR

There is a 0% introductory APR for 12 months from account opening date on purchases. For rates and fees of the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please visit this rates and fees page.

Regular APR

Following the end of the introductory period, variable regular APR applies. It’s currently 13.24% to 19.24% variable, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.

Important Fees

Blue Business Plus has no annual fee or fees for additional employee cards. Foreign transactions cost 2.7%. Late and returned payments cost up to $39 each. See rates and fees.

Spend Above Your Credit Limit

Blue Business Plus comes with a spending limit. However, cardholders can spend above their credit limits without first applying for a higher limit, provided they pay off the amount spent above the limit in full by their statement due date. Above-limit spending is not unlimited – according to American Express, it “adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to American Express, and other factors.”

Additional Business Benefits

Blue Business Plus comes with a nice lineup of business-friendly benefits, including digital receipt storage, expense tagging and tracking, and the ability to designate an employee as your account manager and dispute resolution point person.

Credit Required

This card requires good to excellent credit.

Advantages

  1. No Annual Fee. Blue Business Plus doesn’t have an annual fee. That’s a nice contrast to other popular small business cards.
  2. Long Introductory APR Period. Blue Business Plus’s 0% APR introductory period lasts for 12 months from account opening. That’s much more generous than many fellow competing business cards, and in line with top low APR consumer credit cards. Once the introductory APR period ends, variable regular APR applies.
  3. Good for Business Owners Without Stellar Credit. Although Blue Business Plus requires good to excellent credit, it’s not the most exclusive card out there. If you don’t have major blemishes on your credit record, there’s a good chance you’re going to be approved for this card. That’s certainly not the case for more exclusive American Express business products, such as Business Gold Rewards and Business Platinum.

Disadvantages

  1. Has a Foreign Transaction Fee. Blue Business Plus comes with a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not ideal for business owners who frequently travel abroad. If you’re looking for a piece of plastic that doesn’t penalize you for setting foot in other countries, try one of the Capital One Spark cards.
  2. Points Accumulate Slowly. Blue Business Plus earns just 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent after the first $50,000 in purchases each year. That’s a slower rate of accumulation than some direct competitors, including Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card.
  3. Point Values Can Be Low. Come redemption time, Membership Rewards points’ values vary based on what they’re being redeemed for. Merchandise redemptions are usually worth $0.01 per point, but cash equivalents can be worth much less – $0.005 or $0.006, in some cases. By contrast, the Capital One Spark family’s miles or cash back points are always worth $0.01 apiece, while Chase Ink Business Preferred‘s points can be worth as much as $0.0125 at redemption or even more when points are transferred to travel partners. If you’re looking for a generous business loyalty program, look to that card.

Final Word

American Express has a somewhat deserved reputation as an issuer of gold-plated and platinum-plated cards with luxurious fringe benefits, impeccable service, and generous loyalty features. Many of the company’s high-end cards live up to this image – but not all of them.

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is a middle-of-the-road rewards card that doesn’t require massive revenues or an off-the-charts credit score – a true business credit card for the rest of us. Blue Business Plus’ broad appeal does come with some drawbacks, including a so-so rewards system, but there are worse cards out there. If you don’t qualify for a more generous American Express card at the moment, it’s not a bad place to start.

For rates and fees of the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please visit this rates and fees page.

Source: moneycrashers.com

7 Money Lies We Tell Ourselves

Do you think you’re telling yourself the truth about money? We may think we know the facts about our finances. But our beliefs can often overshadow the facts.

Our wishes, hopes and fears can tip the scales away from the truth. This makes it easier for us to believe what we want to about money — and it can happen without us even realizing it.

The “money lies” we tell ourselves can change the way we think and act when it comes to finances. And since most of us rarely talk about money with our friends and family, the money lies we tell ourselves stick around. That can lock us into destructive beliefs and reinforce poor financial habits.

But no matter what money lies we tell ourselves, it’s never too late to set the record straight. Let’s look at some of the most common money lies we all buy into at some point — and the truth behind them.

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1. I’ll be happier when I have $_____.

Bundles of money stick out of a bucket.Bundles of money stick out of a bucket.

“With $___ in the bank (whatever amount you think is ideal), many of my problems would go away, and I’d be happier.”

Does this sound familiar?

Goals and target numbers for earnings, savings and budgets are great. But if you make the mistake of thinking some magic number will flip a happiness switch for you, think again.

When we tell ourselves this money lie, we put too much emotion into a single number. And we may be setting ourselves up for disappointment — both if we never get $__, and if we do get $__ and realize it doesn’t make us as happy as we thought it should.

The good news? Studies show that making progress toward our goals can be incredibly satisfying, regardless of whether we hit the target.

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2. I deserve it, regardless of whether I can afford it.

A woman holds many shopping bags and looks miffed.A woman holds many shopping bags and looks miffed.

“I work hard, and I don’t treat myself often.”

“I could kick the bucket tomorrow (YOLO).”

“I’m getting a great deal!”

These are just some of the rationalizations we use to convince ourselves that it’s OK to buy something.

Whatever legs this money lie stands on, it’s usually used to soothe the sting of expensive purchases — those that aren’t really essential — and perhaps items we know, deep down, we don’t really need.

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3. I have strong financial willpower.

A woman chooses between an apple and a huge hamburger.A woman chooses between an apple and a huge hamburger.

When faced with temptation, most of us lie to ourselves that we’re great at resisting it. But, when was the last time you chose not to buy something you really wanted? When was the last time you made an impulse buy?

The average American spends at least a couple of hundred dollars a month on impulse purchases.

And we’re more likely to buy on impulse and spend more when we’re stressed. That’s probably why impulse spending shot up about 18% in 2020.

Plus, those of us who are shopping with credit cards are probably spending more on the regular basis than we realize. The average credit card shopper spends about 10% more with their cards than they would with cash. And that’s not even counting the cost of interest if the balance isn’t paid in full.

4 of 8

4. I’ll save more later.

A piggy bank with a sad face lies on its side.A piggy bank with a sad face lies on its side.

Most folks focus on buying what we need and want now, and we tell ourselves we’ll start saving for the future later. If we save anything at all, it’s likely to be whatever we have left over. In fact, fewer than 1 in 6 of us are saving more than 15% of our income, and 1 in 5 aren’t saving any money.

No matter the reason, when we tell ourselves this money lie and put off saving, we’re prioritizing the present over the future.

That can catch up with us on a “rainy day” or whenever we do start thinking seriously about retiring. By that time, there can be a lot of heavy lifting to play “catch up” with our savings — or it may even be too late.

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5. I have plenty of time to plan for my financial future (& I don’t need to think about it yet).

A drawing of a clock in the sand of a beach is washed away by waves.A drawing of a clock in the sand of a beach is washed away by waves.

The future can seem really far away when we’re looking 10, 20 or even more years out. When we feel like we have a lot of room between now and then, it’s easy to make excuses to not plan or save for it.

This money lie is an excuse for procrastination. It’s the rationale we use when we have a hard time managing our negative feelings or uncertainties about our financial futures. And it makes us turn a blind eye to the years of interest that we lose out on when we don’t plan.

Benjamin Franklin may have spoken best about the truth behind this money lie when he wisely said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

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6. There is good and bad debt.

A piggy bank with slips of IOUs sticking out.A piggy bank with slips of IOUs sticking out.

We tend to assign moral value to debt, thinking of mortgages and student loans as “good” debt, and considering credit card debt as “bad.”

This money lie gets us to think the wrong way about debt. All debt comes with some cost, and it’s critical to understand how every loan affects our current and future selves.

Instead of focusing on whether debt is “good” or “bad,” concentrate on the total cost of the interest over time (it’s often higher than you think) and on deciding whether the loan is really helping you achieve your goals.

About half of us seem to already be on track with that thinking, saying that we expect to be out of debt within one to five years.

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7. Wanting more is bad.

Ladders lead up into the clouds.Ladders lead up into the clouds.

While I think we can all agree that obsessive greed is wrong, it’s not a bad thing to want more for you and your loved ones.

When we tell ourselves we shouldn’t want more than we have, we agree to settle for less. And we may be tricking ourselves into thinking it’s OK that we’re not doing something (or enough) to improve our financial situation.

This money lie holds us back and can make it hard to improve our financial behaviors.

When we frame wanting more as a positive motivator, it can be easier to take the chances or do the work needed to get to that next financial level we may want.

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How to Stop Losing Out to Costly Money Lies

Hands holding one-hundred dollar billsHands holding one-hundred dollar bills

How many of these money lies sound like something you’ve told yourself?

At some point, I think we’ve all tricked ourselves with at least one of them. Maybe we were rationalizing a decision, or we were trying to make ourselves feel better about what we wanted to do with our money. And we probably didn’t make the best financial choices as a result.

Here’s the truth: Honesty goes a long way with finances.

What we tell ourselves and what we believe about money influences our financial behaviors. If we’re not telling ourselves the truth, our money lies won’t just drain our wallets. They can affect our financial awareness and inflate our confidence. And they get in the way of maintaining or growing wealth.

When we recognize the money lies that we believe, we can reset our thinking, change our mindset and start taking action. And that sets us up to make better choices and make more progress toward our big financial goals.

P.S.: Sign up for my emails to continue the conversation. My subscribers get my best insights! Just email me at ian.maxwell@revirescowealth.com, and put SUBSCRIBE in the subject field.

This material is for information purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security. The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information; no warranty, expressed or implied, is made regarding accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of any information. Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision. For illustrative use only.
Investment advisory services offered through Virtue Capital Management, LLC (VCM), a registered investment advisor. VCM and Reviresco Wealth Advisory are independent of each other. For a complete description of investment risks, fees and services, review the Virtue Capital Management firm brochure (ADV Part 2A) which is available from Reviresco Wealth Advisory or by contacting Virtue Capital Management.

Founder & CEO, Reviresco Wealth Advisory

Ian Maxwell is an independent fee-based fiduciary financial adviser and founder and CEO of Reviresco Wealth Advisory. He is passionate about improving quality of life for clients and developing innovative solutions that help people reconsider how to best achieve their financial goals. Maxwell is a graduate of Williams College, a former Officer in the USMC and holds his Series 6, Series 63, Series 65, and CA Life Insurance licenses.Investment Advisory Services offered through Retirement Wealth Advisors, (RWA) a Registered Investment Advisor. Reviresco Wealth Advisory and RWA are not affiliated. Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.

Source: kiplinger.com

10 Ways to Save Money on School Uniforms for Kids

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 public schools required students to wear uniforms as of the 2017-18 school year. These can be anything from identical outfits marked with the school’s name or logo to a basic color scheme, such as plain white shirts and tan pants.

According to 2011 research from the University of Nevada, Reno College of Education, a school uniform policy can have many benefits for students. It can make it easier to get ready for school, boost self-esteem, reduce bullying, and improve classroom discipline. But it has one big downside for parents: the cost. According to CostHelper, a school wardrobe of four or five uniforms can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000.

One reason uniforms often cost more than regular clothes is that parents have less choice about where to buy them. If you can only get your kids’ school wardrobes from the official school store, you must pay whatever that store charges. However, you can get around this problem with the right shopping strategies. The first tip to try: shopping secondhand.

Ways to Save With Secondhand School Uniforms

Clothes are one thing it nearly always pays to buy secondhand if you can. With school uniforms, that’s doubly true.

Since young children grow so fast, their outgrown uniforms can still have lots of life left in them. Naturally, these previously worn uniforms don’t look brand-new, but neither do most school clothes after a few weeks of wear. Secondhand school uniforms cost much less than new ones, and in some cases, they’re free.

1. Try Uniform Swaps

If you have two children attending the same school, the younger kid can wear the older one’s hand-me-downs. But if you have only one child or your kids go to different schools, you can end up with clothes in good condition and no one to hand them down to.

A uniform swap is a way to expand your hand-me-down family. By pooling resources with other parents, you can pass on your child’s outgrown uniforms to younger students at your school and receive uniforms from older students in turn.

Some schools hold official uniform exchanges. For example, at St. Catharine School in Ohio, you can trade in gently used school uniforms for larger sizes or pick up other people’s trade-ins at significantly reduced prices. Other schools, like St. Stephen’s Academy in Oregon, give parents points for their trade-ins, which they can use for purchases or donate.

If your child’s school doesn’t have an official uniform exchange, hold a clothing swap party of your own. Invite other parents over, lay out all your outgrown uniform items, and see who can use them.

If you don’t have the space to meet and exchange clothes in person, start a social media group where parents can post photos and descriptions of their kids’ outgrown clothes. When you find someone who has the size your child needs or needs the size you have to give, you can contact each other to arrange a pickup.

2. Shop at Thrift Stores

If you live in or near a large city with a large student population, there’s a good chance you can find outgrown school uniforms at local thrift stores. Check the stores closest to your child’s school to maximize your chances of finding them.

Even in smaller cities and towns, thrift stores are an excellent place to look for basic pieces that are often part of a school uniform. Dress shirts, solid-color polo shirts, and chino pants are likely to show up on their racks. You can’t count on finding the pieces you need in your child’s size, but if you do, they’ll be significantly cheaper than new clothes.

To find thrift stores in your area, do an Internet search on “thrift stores” or “thrift shops” with your town’s name or zip code. Also, check the websites of the largest store chains — such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Value Village — to find their nearest locations.

3. Find Sellers Online

If you can’t find suitable secondhand clothes for your child’s uniform at local stores, try looking online. Start consulting your local Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace groups in early July, and look for new listings every other day or so. That gives you roughly two months to find all the pieces you need to build a complete school wardrobe for your child. Just be sure to contact sellers quickly when you find something you need so someone doesn’t beat you to it.

Another reliable source for secondhand uniforms online is eBay. You can create saved searches for each specific garment your child needs, such as “navy shorts size 8,” and receive daily emails of all new listings for your saved search. You can pick up pieces one at a time or — if you’re lucky — find a lot of uniform clothing all in the same size.


Ways to Save on New School Uniforms

The biggest downside of secondhand shopping is that you can’t be sure of finding what you need. If the start of the school year is approaching and you still don’t have a complete school wardrobe for your child, don’t panic. There are ways to buy new uniform-appropriate clothes and still keep costs down.

4. Buy the Minimum

For starters, don’t buy more of any component than you really need. Your child may need a clean shirt for school every day, but kids can usually get away with wearing the same skirt, pants, or sweater several days in a row. Jackets and ties can go even longer between cleanings.

How many pieces your child needs depends on how often you intend to do laundry. Mothers discussing their kids’ school wardrobes on Mumsnet generally say they include:

  • Five to 10 shirts
  • Two to five sweaters
  • Two to five skirts or pairs of pants or shorts

On top of that, you can add one or two school blazers and one or two dresses or jumpers if your uniform includes these pieces. And your child also needs at least one pair of school shoes and enough socks and underwear to last the week.

If you shop smart, you can put together this minimalist kids’ wardrobe for less than the $240 average parents reported spending on back-to-school clothes in a 2019 National Retail Federation survey. CostHelper says it’s possible to find pants and skirts for as little as $5 each, tops for as little as $3, and shoes starting at $15. That’s less than $100 for the whole wardrobe.

5. Visit Cheaper Stores

If your school’s uniform consists of basics like solid-color tops and pants, there’s no need to buy them at the official school store. Many major retail chains sell uniform-appropriate clothes for kids at quite reasonable prices. In fact, several retailers offer lines of kids’ clothes designed explicitly for this purpose, such as:

6. Shop Online

If stores in your area don’t carry the school uniform pieces you need at prices you like, try shopping online. Some online retailers specialize in school uniforms, and others have sections devoted to them. Good places to shop online include:

  • Amazon. The e-tail giant has an entire section called The School Uniform Shop. It provides links to uniform-appropriate garments from many popular brands, including Nautica, Izod, and Dockers. Alternatively, you can search for “school uniforms” to find apparel for girls and boys. Check out these Amazon savings tips for more ways to save.
  • French Toast. Online retailer French Toast deals in school uniforms for all ages, which you can search by school or gender. The site also offers two- and three-packs of identical shirts or pants for a discounted price per piece.
  • Lands’ End. The school uniform shop at Lands’ End offers sturdy clothing in all sizes, from toddler to adult. Clothes are covered by the brand’s unconditional lifetime guarantee. There’s even a selection of adaptive garments for kids with disabilities. This apparel combines easy-to-use magnetic closures with decorative buttons for a uniform look.
  • Lee Uniforms. For teens and young adults, the Lee Uniforms store on Amazon offers school- and work-friendly pieces. The selection is limited, but the prices are excellent.
  • SchoolUniforms.com. As its name implies, SchoolUniforms.com specializes in uniform basics, from blazers to plaid pleated skirts. Garments come in a range of sizes to fit children ages 3 and up, including plus sizes.

When shopping for uniforms online, you can save still more by using a mobile coupon app like Rakuten or Ibotta. If you prefer to shop from a computer, install a money-saving browser extension like Capital One Shopping to help you find great prices and available coupon codes.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.

7. Wait for Sales

If your school has an official uniform store, call that store and see when it plans to offer discounts or promotions. In many cases, uniforms go on sale in October, after most parents have already bought their kids’ clothes for the year. You can save money on school uniforms by buying just enough pieces to get through September and waiting until October to stock up.

If the school uniform is a generic outfit available from many stores, keep an eye out for sales at all the stores in your area. Consider signing up for emails from your favorite local stores to let you know when uniform clothing goes on sale. Sometimes, these emails also provide coupons, which can boost your savings still more.

Timing your purchases can help at department stores too. Clothes often go on sale at the end of the season — for example, summer clothes in September or winter coats in March. If you plan ahead, you can save by buying school uniforms for next year during these end-of-season sales.

If you’re unsure when and where school uniforms are most likely to go on sale in your area, create a Google Alert for the term “school uniform sale” with your location or zip code. Whenever a new sale pops up, you’ll receive an email about it. You can also use the term “school uniform clearance” to learn about end-of-season clearance sales.

8. Check Out Clearance

Even when a department store isn’t having a sale, there’s usually a clearance rack you can check for marked-down clothing. Since school uniforms tend to be plain clothes without a lot of eye appeal, there are often at least a few pieces that don’t sell and end up on the clearance rack.

For example, the frugal-living bloggers at Life Your Way and Joyfully Thriving both report finding uniform pieces for less than $5 on the clearance racks at stores like Gap and Macy’s.

9. Buy Bigger Sizes

If your child is still growing, there’s a good chance the uniforms you buy now won’t fit by the end of the year. However, you can make them last as long as possible by sizing up.

Choosing clothes with an extra inch to spare in the legs and sleeves gives your kid room to grow into them. Some uniform pants and skirts come with adjustable waistbands, so they’ll accommodate your child’s growth in width as well as height.

And if you find a great price on a particular piece your child needs, you can buy next year’s sizes now. Assuming they plan to attend the same school for the foreseeable future, you know they’ll need the same uniform next year, so buying multiple sizes at once lets you get them all at the best possible price.

10. Buy to Last

If your child has stopped growing but still has a few more years of school to go, you can save money by choosing quality clothing that will last. These well-made pieces may cost more upfront than cheaper brands, but they pay off in the long run. A $50 blazer that wears out after one year costs $50 per year, but a $100 blazer that lasts for four years costs only $25 per year.

For example, clothes from Lands’ End come with a lifetime guarantee. If they don’t last your child until graduation (or they outgrow them), you can return them for a full refund. Clothing from Dickies, available at Walmart, is also guaranteed for its “expected life,” though they don’t define the term. Clothes from Target’s Cat & Jack line come with a one-year guarantee.

Another way to make school uniforms last as long as possible is to choose the darkest colors allowed. On light-colored clothes, minor spots or stains show up more vividly, making them unfit for school wear. Darker-colored clothing, such as maroon, navy, or forest green, hides these minor flaws.


Final Word

Saving on school uniforms doesn’t end when you’ve made your purchases for the year. If your kid’s uniforms become unwearable due to rips, stains, or lost buttons, you’ll have to replace them in a hurry — possibly at full price. To avoid this problem, handle school uniforms with care to make them last as long as possible.

Always follow the washing instructions and line dry or dry flat when possible to avoid wear and tear from the dryer. Treat stains promptly, repair rips, and replace buttons.

If your sewing skills are up to it, you can even get another year or two of life out of garments by letting down the cuffs or adjusting the waistband to fit your child’s larger size. Following all these steps reduces waste, so you can also pat yourself on the back for being green.

One final tip: Label all your kids’ school clothing with their names. When all the students in a school wear the same outfit, it’s easy for them to grab someone else’s sweater or jacket by mistake. Sewing in a name tag or writing on the care tag with a permanent marker increases the chances misplaced clothes will find their way home again.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Have a Baby Shower on a Budget

It’s an honor to be asked to throw a friend or family member a baby shower. But along with that honor, often comes a hefty price tag. Between the food, flowers, decor, and favors, the cost of these soirees can add up quickly.

Fortunately, you don’t need to spend a fortune to throw a fun and memorable celebration for soon-to-be parents and their loved ones. From scoring a cheap (or free) venue to DIYing the centerpieces, there are a number of ways to cut baby shower costs without looking like you cut any corners.

Tips for Throwing a Great Baby Shower on a Budget

These inexpensive baby shower ideas can help you throw a memorable celebration for a mom-to-be and help her become better financially prepared for a baby.

Coming up with a Baby Shower Budget

Before you begin the planning process, it can help to determine the total you can spend on the event and then create a budget. You may also want to find out if family members from either side are willing to chip in financially or by offering to help make something for the party. When setting up your baby shower budget, you’ll likely want to include: the venue, invitations, decorations, food and drinks, entertainment and/or games, prizes and party favors.

Finding a Free (or Low-Cost) Venue

A baby shower doesn’t have to be at a fancy restaurant, hotel, or banquet hall to be festive. It could take place at your, or someone else’s, home. If you’re hosting a baby shower in warm weather. You might consider having it outdoors, such as in your backyard. You could even host a more casual shower with an outdoor barbeque or even a poolside party.

Other low-cost locales options include: a nearby park, the clubhouse of your (or someone else’s) apartment complex, or the meeting room at someone’s place of business.

Limiting the Baby Shower Guest List

Generally, the more people you invite to the shower, the more money you will spend. To keep costs in check, you may want to consider limiting the invite list to the parent-to-be’s closest family and friends. A smaller group not only cuts down on costs, but can also help to create a more intimate gathering that allows the guest of honor to spend time with each guest. It can be a good idea, however, to run the invite list by the expectant mom to be sure that you don’t exclude any important people.

Going Digital With Invitations

You can save money on baby shower invitations by using a digital service, such as Evite, MyPunchbowl, or Paperless Post. These sites and apps typically allow you to choose from a range of free baby shower invitation templates or, for a small fee, upgrade to a more elaborate design. These sites also make it easy to keep track of responses. And, guests will likely appreciate the ability to RSVP with the click of a button. You may, however, want to send paper invites to older guests, particularly if they don’t use an email address often.

Ditching the Caterer

Feeding guests typically takes up the biggest portion of a baby shower budget. One way to help keep the cost of food down is to forgo the caterer and head to your local warehouse club (like Costco or Sam’s Club). You’ll likely be able to create a delicious spread of appetizers, finger foods, and desserts for a lot less than ordering trays from a catering company or restaurant.

Timing it Right

You can also cut down on food costs by not holding the shower right at lunch or dinner time. That way, guests won’t arrive expecting a full meal, and you’ll be able to serve a lighter menu that includes simple appetizers and snacks. A late-morning party can be particularly wallet-friendly–you might simply offer coffee, juice, fruit, and pastries. Or, you might opt for an afternoon tea and serve sweets and finger sandwiches.

Keeping the Cake Simple

A gourmet bakery cake can look beautiful, but it could easily bust your budget. According to CostHelper , an average bakery cake runs around $3 to $4 a slice. To cut costs without sacrificing on taste, you might consider ordering a cake at your local grocery store’s bakery or the bakery at a wholesale club, then having it personalized (which the store will often do free of charge).

DIYing Centerpieces

Fresh flowers look lovely, but they can get expensive if you order arrangements from a professional florist. Instead, you may want to head to your local farmers market, grocery store, or warehouse club to find flowers at reasonable prices that fit your color scheme, then make your own centerpieces. A simple way to get great results is to use flowers in the same color family (like shades of pink or all white). You can pick up vases at the dollar store, or go with Mason jars, which look trendy and can be used for other purposes after the shower is over.

Printing Decor and Games for Free

Instead of racking up a big bill at the party store, you may want to comb the web for free baby shower printables. You can likely find food signs, games (like baby shower bingo), decorations, and favor tags that you can simply print right from your computer.

Making Edible Favors

Sweets can make great baby shower favors, and you can easily bake them yourself without spending a lot. You may also find that there is a family member who would be delighted to take on this task. Edible favors can be as simple as iced sugar cookies (in your color scheme) or as elaborate as cake pops that look like baby rattles.

Considering a Virtual Baby Shower

If the guest of honor’s family and friends are spread out all over the country, having a virtual baby shower is one way to include everyone that’s important, and also keep costs down. You can set a celebratory mood by choosing a Zoom background that fits the theme of your shower, and also include a link so guests can download the background as well. Friends and family can watch the mom-to-be open gifts that were sent to her ahead of time. You can also organize games throughout the virtual baby shower and create a digital guest book that attendees can sign and share their words of wisdom for the expecting parents.

The Takeaway

You can plan a memorable baby shower even on a limited budget. And, spending less doesn’t mean the event will be any less special.

Some easy ways to trim the cost of having a baby shower include: hosting the shower in your home or backyard, heading to your local warehouse club (for food, flowers, and even the cake), using free printables for decor and games, and giving homemade sweets as favors.

You can also make a baby shower more affordable by setting a budget and saving up enough money to cover it in advance (so you don’t end up relying on credit cards).

Looking for a good place to build your party fund? A SoFi Money® cash management account can be a good option. With SoFi Money’s “vaults” feature, you can separate your savings from your spending while earning competitive interest on all of your money. You can even set up separate vaults for separate savings goals.

Start saving for your next milestone celebration with SoFi Money.

Photo credit: iStock/vejaa


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Source: sofi.com

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Amazon Prime member holding packages
alphaspirit.it / Shutterstock.com

Shopping on Amazon can be convenient, especially if you are still spending more time at home amid the coronavirus pandemic. You can get anything from frozen pizza to light bulbs delivered to your door at the click of a button.

An Amazon Prime membership is even more convenient. Perks include not just faster shipping but also access to free e-books, music, file storage and more, as we detail in “These Are the 9 Best Benefits of Amazon Prime.”

While the convenience is great, the cost of membership may give you pause. In 2018, the online retailer raised the price of an annual Prime membership from $99 to $119 per year. For monthly subscribers, the cost went from $10.99 to $12.99 per month.

If you want to pay less but still enjoy the convenience of Amazon Prime, there are a few ways to get a free membership.

1. Get a free trial

If you want to try Amazon Prime to see if it’s worth paying for a membership, sign up for a free 30-day trial.

This is an option for people who are new to Prime as well as people who were Prime members in the past but have not been a member in the past 12 months. Just remember to cancel the trial before the 30 days is up if you decide you don’t want to pay for a membership.

Keep in mind that you can’t use a checking account or prepaid credit card to sign up for your trial: Your Amazon account must have a credit card.

However, you can use different email addresses to get multiple free trials, at least according to a 2018 Vice report. Again, remember to cancel each trial before it ends to avoid being charged for a membership.

If you’re a college student, you can sign up for a free Prime Student trial, which lasts six months. A Prime Student membership also costs less than a regular Prime membership if you decide to continue after your trial ends — $6.49 per month.

2. Use free Amazon gift cards

If you keep your Amazon membership after the free trial ends, consider paying for it with Amazon gift cards. There are various ways to get them for free. Check out the options in “8 Ways to Get Amazon Gift Cards for Free.”

3. Use credit card rewards

If you have a cash-back credit card, you could use your accumulated cash back to pay for a Prime membership — which kind of feels like you are getting Prime for free.

If you sign up for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card, you will earn 5% cash back on purchases at Amazon and Whole Foods Market, and 1% or 2% everywhere else. If you spend $2,400 in a year at the 5% rate, you will earn $120 cash back — enough to cover the cost of a one-year annual membership.

If you’re in the market for a new card, stop by Money Talks News’ Solutions Center and use the free credit card comparison tool.

4. Switch cellphone plans

Looking to switch cellphone carriers? Some wireless providers offer Amazon Prime as a perk for signing up for select plans.

For example, Metro by T-Mobile gives customers Amazon Prime for free with select plans.

For more help finding the right plan for you, check out Money Talks News’ free cellphone and wireless plan comparison tool.

5. Share an account using Amazon Household

If someone in your household has an Amazon Prime membership, you can ask them to share it with you via Amazon Household.

Each of you keeps your own Amazon account, but the two accounts are linked, giving you access to select Prime benefits. They include:

  • Prime Shipping
  • Prime Video
  • Prime Reading
  • Amazon Photos
  • First Reads
  • Audible Channels
  • Prime Now
  • Other discounts and exclusives

Keep in mind that using the Amazon Household feature means sharing payment methods.

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

Can You Use Food Stamps Online?

The food stamp program in the U.S. has made it possible for millions of Americans dealing with economic hardship to feed their families each day.

While food stamps, now officially called SNAP benefits, can help families save money on food, it hasn’t always been the most convenient way to shop for groceries. In the past, food stamp recipients needed to physically go into a store to shop for and pay for their groceries using a special (EBT) payment card.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has expanded an online purchasing pilot program that allows SNAP recipients to purchase groceries online then arrange for pickup or delivery. The program is now available at certain retailers in most states.

Read on to learn where and how you can use food stamps to buy groceries online.

What Are Food Stamps?

“Food stamps” is an older, but still commonly used term to describe SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

SNAP is designed to provide nutritional assistance to low-income families, as well as the elderly, disabled, and people who have filed for unemployment. SNAP is a federal program administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which has a network of local offices.

While SNAP doesn’t cover all the items you might pick up at the supermarket, it can significantly cut your grocery bill.

USDA national map .

Each state has its own application form. If your state’s form is not on the web yet, you can contact your local SNAP office to request a paper form.

What Stores Accept Food Stamps Online?

Thanks to the expedited expansion of an online purchasing pilot program run by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, households receiving SNAP benefits in any of the 47 participating states (along with the District of Columbia) can now use EBT to pay for groceries online from select retailers.

Alaska, Louisiana, and Montana are not currently enrolled in the pilot. And, not every retailer in participating states supports EBT payments.

If a retailer is enrolled in SNAP’s online program, people on food stamps can select foods eligible for EBT benefits online and then arrange for in-store or curbside pickup. In some cases, it may be possible to have your groceries delivered. If the retailer charges a delivery fee, however, you cannot use your benefits to cover that fee.

While Amazon and Walmart are among the best known retailers for online EBT shopping, the number of stores accepting EBT card payment online is continuing to expand, and now even includes some “specialty” stores like Trader Joe’s.

FreshDirect, an online grocery delivery service, now delivers for free to SNAP participants in some zip codes in the New York metropolitan area.

And, Instacart, a grocery delivery service, is currently partnering with many local stores in the U.S. to offer SNAP EBT benefits. The latest version of the Instacart app should display whether your local store offers EBT SNAP.

Which retailers (and which specific locations) participate in the online SNAP program will vary from one state to another, so it’s a wise idea to check which options are available in your area.

Here are some of the retailers that are now accepting food stamps for online shopping (for either delivery or pickup):

• Walmart

• Amazon

• Aldi

• Food Lion

• Publix

• FreshDirect

• BJ’S Wholesale Club

• Kroger

• ShopRite

• Fred Meyer

• Safeway

• Albertsons

• Vons

• Hy-Vee

How to Use Food Stamps to Buy Groceries Online

The rules for using food stamps online will vary by retailer. For example, when shopping on Amazon, you can add your SNAP EBT card, shop for groceries, and when you check out, you enter your EBT PIN to pay for eligible purchases.

For Walmart, you can order groceries online or through the store’s grocery mobile app. You first need to sign into your Pickup & Delivery account and then select Payment Methods.

cash management account, you can track your weekly food spending right in the dashboard of the app. You can also earn competitive interest on your money, and won’t pay any account or monthly fees.

Learn how SoFi Money can help you manage your spending and saving today.

Photo credit: iStock/Yana Tatevosian


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank.
SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
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.
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Source: sofi.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.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com