Chase Credit Journey is one of the many credit monitoring services that gives you a credit score for free. Launched by Chase, Credit Journey also monitors your score and gives you advice on to improve it.
One of the best ways to get approved for a loan or a credit card is to have a good credit score. Think of this 3-digit number as a representation of your credit worthiness and credibility.
In fact, lenders use your credit score to see how risky it is for them to let you borrow. The higher your score, the better.
So, it is very important to use a free tool like Chase Credit Journey, to know your credit score before applying for a loan, a credit card, or an apartment.
Doing so will give you an idea whether or not you will be approved or denied.
One way to get a credit score for free and monitor it is through Chase Credit Journey. If your credit score is excellent, then you are all good.
All you have to do is maintaining it. If it’s bad, then you can take steps to raise your credit score.
In this article, we will address what Chase Credit Journey is, why you should use it, and some of its limitations.
What is Chase Credit Journey?
Chase Credit Journey is a free online service offered by Chase that gives consumers a credit score and credit report for free. You don’t have to be a Chase customer to use the service.
You’ll need to register by entering personal information, including your credit cards information, existing loans, etc.
Checking your credit on Chase Credit Journey does not hurt your credit score, because it counts as a soft credit inquiry. Soft inquiries, as opposed to hard inquiries, leave your credit score untouched.
In addition to getting a credit score from Chase Credit Journey, you can get one from the following credit monitoring services all for free:
How Does Credit Journey Work?
Chase Credit Journey uses Experian, one of the three credit bureaus, to give you a credit score and report.
Chase Credit Journey uses the VantageScore 3.0 model, which is a collaboration from the three credit bureaus.
Your score is updated weekly but you can access it as much as you can and anytime you want.
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Also, you can sign up for credit alerts through Credit Journey which can notify you if your score changes or if something suspicious is happening on your credit file.
If there are errors, Chase Credit Journey will guide you on how to file a dispute with the credit bureaus. You can’t get your FICO score via Chase Credit Journey.
In addition to getting a free credit score, you also get an analysis of your score and advice on how to raise it and other free resources. This way you can take steps to improve your credit score.
If you’re ready to give Chase Credit Journey a shot, go online to the homepage to see how Credit Journey works.
You can also access the Chase Credit Journey through the Chase mobile app as well. If you’re not convinced yet, keep reading.
Chase Credit Journey helps you understand the 6 factors to come up with your VantageScore credit score. They are:
1) Payment history (or late payments): payment history accounts for 35% of your total credit score. In fact, it is the most important factor in your total credit score. Late or missed payments can negatively affect your credit score.
2) Credit utilization ratio (or credit usage): Credit utilization is how much of your credit limit youâre using versus your balance. Credit card utilization accounts for 30% of your total credit score. So keeping it low is ideal. Keeping your credit card balance under 30% is the way to go. For example, letâs suppose your credit card has a credit limit of $5000. You have used $2500 of that credit. Then your credit utilization is 50%. To keep it below 30%, you should only use $1500 of that credit.
3) Credit age: The third most important factor of your total credit score is your credit age. That means how long you have had credit. Lenders like to see a longer credit age. In your credit report, youâll be able to see your average credit age.
4) Hard Inquiry: The higher your credit inquiries, the lower your credit score can become. Anytime you apply for a loan or a credit card or when a landlord checks your credit, it can cause a small dip in your credit score. So multiple credit inquiries can hurt your credit score rather than improving it.
5) Total Balances: total balances refer to the amount owed over all of your credits, including your mortgage, student loans, credit cards, personal loans, etc.
6) Available credit: This factor represents the current amount of unused credit you have over your accounts.
Chase Credit Journey best feature: the score simulator
In addition to providing you a free credit score and report, a credit alert, and credit resources, Chase Credit Journey has an invaluable feature called the score simulator.
The score simulator gives you an estimate of how certain changes in your credit behavior can affect your credit score. Those changes include missing a payment, card balance transfer, and closing an old account, etc.
The importance of checking your score via a free credit service like Chase Credit Journey
Your credit score is perhaps the first thing lenders look at to decide whether to approve you for a loan or credit card. The better your score, the higher is your chance of getting that loan.
On the other hand, if you have a bad credit score, getting a loan or a credit card not only can prove very difficult, but applying for it puts a hard inquiry that can actually lower your already bad credit score.
So knowing your score before you actually apply will give you an idea whether lenders will approve you. It will also allows you to apply for credit with confidence. That’s why is important to use a free credit service.
Additionally, checking your credit score and credit report on a regular basis will help you identify what is on your credit report. Outstanding debts and a history of late payments can directly impact your credit score.
You can get your credit report for free by logging on AnnualCreditReport.com from each of the three credit bureaus. But these credit reports do not give you a credit score. Moreover, you get these reports only once every year.
While there are several options, Chase Credit Journey is just another option. It’s never a bad idea to have several options to choose from.
In other words, it’s better to get your score from more than one source. However, there are some limitations to using Chase Credit Journey.
Chase Credit Journey Limitations
One of the limitations Chase Credit Journey has is that it only uses one of the three major credit bureaus, which is Experian. When you get your score from only one credit bureau, you might not see the whole picture.
So, your credit score might not be entirely accurate.
For example, letâs say you transfer a credit card balance to a new credit card. If Transunion and Equifax are the only credit bureaus that recorded the card was closed during the transfer, you credit score might drop, because Experian recorded you opened a new card.
Another disadvantage of Chase Credit Journey is that the VantageScore’s scoring model is not the industry standard. Most companies use FICO scores to decide whether to approve or decline you for a loan or credit.
And while VantageScore and FICO scores range from 300 to 850, the two models use different criteria in coming up with your credit score. In other words, each model weighs the factors differently in calculating your credit score.
So your Chase Credit Journey credit score might be different than a FICO score. So, if you are ready to apply for a loan, find out which actual credit score your lender will use to improve your chance of approval.
The Bottom Line
Chase Credit Journey provides free credit scores and reports from Experian. The scores are updated weekly. The free credit score is based on the VantageScore 3.0 model.
However, while VantageScore’s system is accurate, it is not what most companies use. But one important thing about Chase Credit Journey is that it one other free tool that allows you stay proactive and monitor your credit on a regular basis. In turn, it allows you to know your score before applying for credit.
Speak with the Right Financial Advisor
You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAssetâs free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
The post Chase Credit Journey: Check Your Credit Score For Free appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
The start of a new year is a great time to update your financial goals and give your budget a second look. If you didnât save as much as you had hoped to in 2017 â or youâve racked up holiday debt â making some financial resolutions can help you get back on track. As youâre reviewing your spending habits and expenses, here are three money moves you might want to make.
1. Prioritize Your Emergency Fund
An emergency fund can be your best friend when disasters strike. If your heating system bites the dust in the middle of the winter or April showers cause your roof to leak, having some cash in the bank can keep you from having to cover the damages using loans or credit cards.
If your emergency fund is on the small side (or worse, nonexistent), whipping it into shape belongs at the top of your to-do list. You can begin by setting a savings goal. For example, you could initially aim to save $1,000. Then you could work on bumping that up to an amount equal to three to six monthsâ worth of expenses.
Depending on how you manage your finances, you may need to break down your bigger savings goals into smaller ones that you can hit on a monthly basis. You may only be able to save $25 or $50 every month, but the key is to be consistent. If youâre struggling to get into the habit of saving money regularly, you can have part of your paycheck automatically deposited into your savings account.
2. Track Your Spending
One of the biggest budgeting blunders you can make is not knowing where your moneyâs going. Aside from knowing how much youâre spending on essentials like housing, utilities and transportation, itâs important to keep an eye on how much money is going toward non-essential expenses, like movie tickets, clothing and fast food.
You can track your expenses by listing them in a notebook. Or you can find an app to do that for you. Apps like Level Money and Mint, for example, make it easy to see what youâre spending money on.
3. Switch up Your Payment Methods
Using a credit card can be a convenient way to pay for purchases. But credit cards can be dangerous, especially if you fall into the habit of thinking itâs okay to spend more than you need to. Paying with a debit card could also get you in trouble if you often overspend.
Paying for everything with cash for the first few months of the new year might help you reign in your spending. Having to physically hand over money tends to be more painful than swiping or dipping a piece of plastic. Setting aside a certain amount of cash for non-essential items may force you to think twice about what youâre doing with your dollars and cents.
Each of these resolutions is based on the assumption that you have a budget. If you donât have one, itâs best to create a spending plan before setting other financial goals.
To get started, you can review your pay stubs and your bank statements to get an idea of how much money you have coming in and going out. Then you can fine-tune your budget by adding up all of your debts and estimating how much you can spend on discretionary items. Finally, you can decide how much you can afford to save, based on whether youâre trying to prepare for retirement or make a major purchase.
Would you like to learn how to save for retirement?
Learning how to save for retirement is how you start preparing for your future. It’s necessary if you don’t want to work for the rest of your life or if you want to do amazing things after you quit working, like traveling or trying new hobbies.
I don’t plan on retiring anytime soon, but it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and planning for. There are lots of reasons for why you should too, such as:
You can retire sooner rather than later.
You won’t have to keep working forever.
You can lead a good life well after you finish working.
Compound interest means the earlier you save the more you earn.
You won’t have to rely on your children or others in order to survive.
But, many people are confused or overwhelmed when it comes to retirement savings and investing.
There are different kinds of retirement accounts, personal finance terms you might be unfamiliar with, and you might feel like you don’t have enough money to start saving.
But, you have to remember that everyone is new to this at some point. Anyone who has already started saving for retirement started where you are today – having a lot of questions about how to save for retirement.
You might even have a lot of questions that you are too embarrassed to ask anyone. However, you shouldn’t be embarrassed or feel bad about not knowing how to start saving for retirement.
Personal finance bloggers and retirement experts all started at the same point as you. No one was born knowing how!
Today, I’m going to try to take the stress out of learning how to save for retirement. I am going to explain some common retirement and investing terms – like what compound interest is, the difference in IRAs, and what a 401(k) is.
I’m also going to answer some of the most common questions about retirement savings. These include topics like how much you should save, and if you should save for retirement or help your kids pay for college.
If you are worried that you don’t have enough to start saving for retirement, I have some great tips to get started.
Learning the answers to these questions now is so important because it can help you live a better life in the future. By preparing now, you can prevent future financial stress, you can reach your goals, and pursue your passions.
And remember, it is never too late to learn how to save for retirement, and it’s very important to do if you don’t want to work for the rest of your life.
Related content on how to save for retirement:
Why Investing for Retirement is So Important for Women (and How To Do It)
How This Couple Retired In Their 30s and Now Travel Around The World
How To Become Rich – It’s More Than Millions In The Bank
How This Couple Retired at 38 and 41
How My 401k Loan Cost Me $1 Million Dollars
Here’s how to save for retirement.
What is a 401(k)?
A 401(k) is a type of retirement account that you get through an employer.
It allows you to invest a portion of your paycheck before taxes are taken out, and the amount in your 401(k) can grow tax free until you withdraw. Once you reach retirement and take money out of your 401(k), the amount you withdraw from this account is taxed.
Your 401(k) is an account that holds investments, similar to how your bank account holds your money. You may choose to place investments such as stocks, mutual funds, and more in your 401(k).
What’s a company match? Or employer match?
You’ve probably heard the term “employer match” or “company match.” But, what do they mean?
A company or employer match is when your employer contributes to your 401(k).
For example, an employer may match 100% of your contribution, up to 5% of your salary. So, if you contribute 5% of your salary to your 401(k), then your employer will also match and put 5% in as well.
This is basically free money that will help you grow your retirement savings, and you should take advantage of it if you can!
What is an IRA?
An IRA (Individual Retirement Account) is a type of retirement account that anyone can open, without an employer.
If you do not work for someone else, or if the business you work for does not have a 401(k), then an IRA may be a good option for you.
This is a confusing term and topic for people who want to learn how to save for retirement because there are different types of IRAs, including:
Traditional IRA – Contributions to this kind of IRA are tax deductible the year they are made.
SEP IRA – This is a traditional IRA that offers tax breaks for those who are self-employed.
Roth IRA – This account uses after-tax money, and your withdrawals in retirement are not taxed.
One way people decide between a Roth and traditional IRA is by what their tax rate (this is based on your income) will be like during retirement. If you will be at a higher tax rate, you may want to choose a Roth IRA. If you will be at a lower rate, a traditional IRA might be better.
What is compound interest?
This is a very important question to cover, because it’s something that may motivate you to start saving as much money as you can right now!
Learning how to save for retirement as soon as you can is a great thing, with one of the reasons being because of compound interest.
So, what is compound interest?
Compound interest is when your interest is earning interest. This can turn the amount of money you have saved into a much larger amount years later.
Compound interest is a crazy thing because $100 today will not be worth $100 in the future if you just let it sit under a mattress or in a basic, low interest checking account. However, if you invest through your retirement account, then you may be able to turn your $100 into something more.
When you invest, your money is working for you and growing your savings, and that’s because of compound interest.
For example: If you put $1,000 into a retirement account with an annual 8% return, 40 years later you will have $21,724. If you started with that same $1,000 and put an extra $1,000 in it for the next 40 years at an annual 8% return, that would then turn into $301,505. If you started with $10,000 and put an extra $10,000 in it for the next 40 years at an annual 8% return, that would grow into $3,015,055.
How much money do I need to retire? What percentage of your income should you save for retirement?
Figuring out how much to save for retirement isn’t an easy question to answer, as this will vary from person to person. It depends on your goals, when you want to retire, and what retirement means to you.
However, many people aren’t saving enough for retirement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the personal savings rate has averaged around 5% in the past year, and averaged 8.33% from 1959 until 2016.
I’ve talked to a lot of people who think that saving between 1% and 5% of their income is enough to be on track for retirement.
Sadly, saving 5% means it may take you a very long time to retire.
For the average person, I recommend saving at least 20% of your income.
However, there is no perfect percentage.
If you have a high income, then you should probably save more of your income so that you aren’t being wasteful with your money.
On the other hand, if 20% just seems like a crazy high percentage for you to save, then just start somewhere, anywhere! Saving something is better than saving nothing.
And, everyone has different financial goals. If you want to retire early, then you’ll most likely have to save more than 20% of your income.
How much money should you have saved by 30?
Many young people who are learning how to save for retirement ask me this question.
Some advisors recommend that you have an amount equal to your annual salary saved by 30, and others say that you should have half of your annual salary saved by 30.
I think those amounts are great to save by 30, but the problem with those guidelines is that if you haven’t started saving or are much older, you can easily feel like you will never be able to reach retirement.
Those recommendations may be very difficult for many people to follow. You have to be realistic with yourself, and start with small goals that you can build over time. Any amount helps, and it’s never too late to start saving!
What if I can’t save very much money for retirement?
You may be thinking “How much money should I save, if I don’t have much money?!”
Thinking about the above recommendations can be frustrating if you are already having a hard time paying your bills and/or living paycheck to paycheck.
However, I recommend saving as much money as you realistically can. This may be nowhere near 20% at first, heck, this might not even be 5%, but any little bit will help. If you are not able to save that much, just save something! Start with $25 a month if you have to – seriously, every little bit does help.
Even if it’s just $1 a day, set that amount aside and start saving it.
You may want to look into Acorns, which is a cell phone app that rounds up your credit card and debit card purchases, and then invests your spare change. Acorns automatically invests for you, and you can get started in under 5 minutes. This app is amazing!
So, no matter how you are doing right now, just start with something, no matter how small. Then, work your way up until you are saving a percentage of your income that you are happy with.
Start small and work your way towards your savings goal. And, if you are currently paying off debt, keep in mind that it counts too! Once your debt is paid off, you can use that amount towards your retirement savings.
Just keep moving in a positive direction and keep getting closer and closer to reaching your financial goals.
I understand that some people have financial situations in which they may not be able to save as much money as they would like. Living paycheck to paycheck, having lots of medical debt, or having a major unexpected expense can wreck a person’s financial situation and their goals, and I understand that.
However, you will need to find a way out of that if you want to learn how to save for retirement. To find a way out, you may want to find ways to cut your spending, make more money (learn ways to make extra money), and more. You will have to challenge yourself, and it may not be easy. However, it will all be worth it once you reach your financial goals!
By spending less money, you’ll decrease the amount of money you need for the future, including money for emergency funds, retirement, and more.
Just think about it: If you are currently living a frugal lifestyle, then you will be used to living on less in the future. This means that your saved retirement amount doesn’t need to be as large, which means it may be easier to reach that savings goal.
Where do I invest for retirement?
Now we are getting into questions about how to save for retirement that focus on some specific investing questions. And there are two main ways to start investing your money.
Either invest your money yourself, such as through an online brokerage, or find an expert to manage your investment portfolio.
Part of learning how to start investing includes determining the company, platform, or person you will use to invest your first dollar.
There are many online brokers for you to choose from. My favorite ways to save for retirement include:
Ally Invest – This is a full service discount broker that doesn’t have a minimum investment amount, so you can start investing with them right away.
Betterment – Betterment offers an affordable way to invest your money. They have over 400,000 customers and over $14 billion has been invested through their platform. With Betterment, you can invest with as little money as you want each month, which is great for a new investor!
Vanguard – I absolutely love Vanguard and use them personally, and I recommend that you check them out.
Also, if your employer has a retirement plan, then you will definitely want to look into that as well. If your company offers a retirement plan match, then this is where you will want to start as their retirement match is pretty much free money, as discussed earlier!
What do I invest in?
After you open your brokerage account, you will want to decide how exactly you will invest your money.
I think this might be one of the biggest hurdles for those wondering how to start investing. There are a lot of what ifs in the investment world, and a good brokerage or expert will help you navigate as you decide where to put your money as you learn how to save for retirement.
Basically, where you invest your money depends a lot on the level of risk you are willing to take and the time you have to watch your funds mature. A simple way of explaining this is that more time equals more risk and less time equals less risk.
For example: if you are in your 20’s, you may have many, many years worth of investing ahead of you. You will likely be able to make some riskier investments knowing that the market will bounce up and down over time. If you are closer to retirement, you may want your funds in something that you are confident will make small but steady gains.
Choosing the stocks you invest in is not the easiest thing because no one knows what will happen in the future. This is why it’s important to have a diverse portfolio.
When you are first learning how to save for retirement, you may want to consult an expert to help you determine your goals, your risk level, and how to diversify your investments in a way that will benefit you.
Even if you do have a professional helping you, it’s always important to do your own research on the types of investments available and which ones interest you.
Please remember that I am not an investment professional and that you should do your research when choosing who/what to invest in.
How often should I check on my investments in my retirement portfolio?
After you’ve started investing, you will want to regularly track your investments. This is important because you may eventually have to change where your money is invested, put more money towards your investments, and so on.
Now, the key here is to not go crazy. Checking on your portfolio can be an exciting thing when you first start investing. But, you do not want to become a person who checks their investments every hour of the day. That won’t help you at all. Your investments will make small changes throughout the day, and these likely won’t matter to you, especially if you are investing for your long-term future.
However, you do want to occasionally check your progress as things may change in the market, your investment interests may change, and you may even change your retirement and/or investing goals.
A free tool that I recommend using to monitor your investments is Personal Capital.
You can see your investment portfolio all in one place so that you can easily track your performance, see your investment allocations, and easily analyze everything related to your investments. The Personal Capital Retirement Planner will also tell you if you have saved enough for retirement, which is great when you’re learning how to save for retirement.
Should I risk my retirement and help my children pay for college?
If you are not currently saving enough money for retirement, and you are in jeopardy of not retiring, then I do not recommend risking your retirement to help your children pay for college.
I have personally heard too many real life stories of parents who have $200,000 in student loan debt for their children. These parents have found that these debts are causing them to struggle financially and that they’re unable to reach their retirement goals.
These parents just honestly want to help their children get through college, but they end up drowning in debt. What they don’t realize, though, is that there are other ways to help your kids graduate from college.
I recommend learning more at Parents Paying For College – Is This A Good Idea?
What are the best retirement and investing books?
There are many great investing and retirement books if you want even more about how to save for retirement. These books can clear up any other questions you have, as well as dive deeper into the many different ways to retire.
Here are some of the investing and retirement books that I recommend:
Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way
Broke Millennial Takes On Investing
Quit Like A Millionaire
The Simple Path To Wealth
The Millionaire Next Door
How Much Money Do I Need To Retire?
There are many more out there, but these are great books to start with. I have read each of them, and they are all very helpful.
How do I actually start saving for retirement?
There are many different ways to save money for retirement.
Actually getting started can be difficult, so in this section I wanted to list out the steps so you can learn exactly how to save for retirement.
Start setting aside money for retirement. If you want to learn how to save for retirement, you need to start setting aside money specifically for it. The amount of money you save is entirely up to you, but in general, the more the better. You can take money out of each paycheck, set up direct deposit, etc.
Research and learn more. I recommend learning more about investing and retirement if you are unsure about anything, such as by reading retirement books, websites, and so on. Sure, it can be easy just to hire someone to do it all for you – but how do you know that they are doing the correct thing to begin with? So, I recommend at the very least having a basic knowledge of everything yourself first.
Choose a brokerage or someone to manage your investments. Like I said earlier, there are two main ways to invest your money – yourself through a brokerage or you can find someone to manage your investment portfolio for you. You will need to choose one of these options to actually start investing your money. Personally, I like to do everything myself through Vanguard.
Decide how you will invest. How you invest depends on your risk tolerance, the time period for which you are investing (when will you retire?), and more. Generally, the sooner you need your funds the less risk you will take on, whereas the longer your time period is, then the more risk you may be willing to take.
Track your investment portfolio. This is important because you may eventually have to change what you are invested in, put more money towards your investments, and so on.
Continue the steps above over and over again. To invest for years and years to come, you will want to continue the steps above over and over again. Now that you know how to save for retirement and the steps it takes to invest your money, it only gets easier.
As you can see from the list above, saving for retirement is attainable, and you can do it!
What else do you want to learn about how to save for retirement? When do you think you’ll retire?
The post How To Save For Retirement – Answers To 13 Of The Most Common Questions appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.
Editorâs note: This article is part of our weekly column to answer your credit card questions. If you would like to ask us a question, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Â New year, new credit card strategy? Now that weâre starting a new year, many people are taking â¦
Are you struggling to pay your credit card debt?Â Perhaps you’re considering a balance transfer credit card to help you pay off your debt faster? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, the average American household owes $6,194 in credit card debt and many are seeking strategies to reduce that number. It may be […]
The post How to Transfer Your Credit Card Balance in 5 Simple Steps appeared first on Incomist.
As busy moms, we need to cut the time, trim the cost, and lessen the mental load, and here are the mom life must haves to help you do it!
Ugh! You just crossed off two items on your to-do list (yaaa!), and then you immediately added four more on to it! #momlife Seriously, you feel like you’re bailing out a sinking battleship with a sippy cup, and there’s no end in sight. Or so it seems…
Every good General knows you need the right tools & resources to win the war, so it’s time to fill your arsenal with the best mom life must haves! These are the things that will help you triumph over errands, chores, and mealtime! All while helping you feel calmer and happier, settling your racing mind, giving you the space to do what’s most important!
Yes, snuggling your kiddos, kissing on your honey, or maybe hiding in the bathtub for 2.5 hours reading a good book and eating chocolate. Hey, self-care is in, right? So sit tight, and get ready to rock your to-do list!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info
How to be a better mom (by having the right support)
Whoa, that’s a loaded statement! I mean, “be a better mom” implies that you’re doing a bad job now, right? NO! We are all doing the best job we can in the life we have right now. No one wakes up and says, “I want to be mediocre today”! No, we want to do a great job every day. Yet, sometimes, at least for me, I fall short.
Some days I’m exhausted, have too much on my schedule, or run out of brown sugar, so no cookie baking today (true story, huge tears ensued from my 5-year-old). When these days happen more than I would like, I know that I need to sit down and recalibrate. Take stock of the common themes, look for overlapping reasons why the $hit keeps hitting the fan, and then figure out what I need to do to get back on track.
Usually, either I need a mini-vacation (sigh), or I need to check out my tools and see where I need more support and even some tools that I may have forgotten about. I call these my mom life must haves! I’ve rounded up my best tips, tools, and resources on the items that help me be a better mom!
When I say “better mom,” I mean…
less frazzled, more calm
less scatterbrained, more organized
less tired, more energized
less scroungy, more stylish
less last minute, more prepared
less mediocre, more badass!
Being a better mom can mean anything that you want it to mean! Don’t let my own definition put restrictions on your best version of you! You can use my ideas to be a jumping-off point, and then tailor them to your own personality and goals!
Take advantage of Amazon Prime Day for huge savings!
I know that spending money on ourselves is hard. I will convince myself that I don’t really need something, or that the money would be better spent on a new thingamajig for my little one. I don’t know why I feel guilty spending money on myself, I just do sometimes.
One thing that always helps me feel better about spending money on myself is if I get it at a good deal! I love saving money! (yes, I’d save a whole lot more if I didn’t buy “it” at all but sometimes we need something! Especially when that something makes our life better or easier! So that’s why I am super excited about Amazon Prime Day!
What is Amazon Prime Day?
It’s a two day event where Amazon offers up steep discounts on millions of products across all categories! People use this time to stock up for holiday gifting, or to splurge on normally expensive items. If you’re a Prime Member you get early access to some of their deals so if you have been thinking about getting a membership, then now is the time! Don’t forget to snag your free 30 day trial!
When is Prime Day this year?
It’s October 13th & 14th this year, but if you’re a Prime Member you’ll get early access!
I am so happy to say that Amazon will be supporting small businesses this year too (sounds counterintuitive but hear me out). Small Businesses can be a partner shop on their platform, and if you purchase starting now through October 12th, if you purchase $10 worth of items from a participating small business you will get $10 credit to use on Prime Day! Check out all the small business partners here!
Amazon Prime Day Deals
Now the following items aren’t a part of my own person list of mom life must haves, yet so many people swear by these. Starting today, Prime members can shop early offers and deals everyday leading up to Prime Day on October 13 & 14.
Get two Echo Dot devices for $39.98
Fire TV Recast for $129.99 to store up to 75 hours of HD programming.
Save up to $100 on Toshiba 43-inch Smart HD Fire TV Edition TV for $179.99.
Insignia 43-inch Smart 4K UHD Fire TV Edition TV for $199.99;
Save $40 on Echo Show 5
Amazon Music: For just $0.99, Prime members who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited can get four months of the premium streaming tier with unlimited access to more than 60 million songs ad-free, and now a wide selection of popular podcasts.
Audible: Prime members can save $50 on a year of Audible Premium Plus. Audible members will also get access to the Plus catalog, featuring more than 10K Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts, all at no additional cost.
Kindle Unlimited: New customers to Kindle Unlimited save 50% off a 6-month subscription.
The main question with Prime Day Deals, is did you want this item before you heard about it on Prime Day? Or did you simply see it and think “ohhhh, shiny!” Remember, it’s only a deal, if you were going to buy it anyway!
Mom life must haves for the home
1. Family charging station
Hercules Tuff Charging Station
charges up to 80% faster!
charge six devices at once
includes 4 Lightning Cables, 1 Type-C Cable, and 1 Micro-USB cable perfectly sized to keep your space organized
This is honestly one of my favorite things, and I’m not usually a gadget person. If my phone isn’t in my hand, I always know where it is, the family charging station is the natural place to put it down, so it’s an easy habit to start. There’s no worrying about your hubby or kiddo walking off with your charging cables! Plus, it makes mealtimes more family-friendly.
We can sit down to a meal without having our phones on the table or in our pockets, where it’s so easy to start scrolling or get sidetracked by notifications!
Time Saved by less distractions and mindless scrolling!
2.A great handheld vacuum
Black & Decker Max Pivot Handheld Vacuum
Lithium battery for strong suction that never fades
4 stars with over 12,000 ratings!
I’m not a Roomba vacuum kind of person, even though the concept sounds great. I don’t trust them I don’t think they’ll do a great job, and I’ve heard the horror stories of them eating cords & carpets. So that means a handheld vacuum, which sounds lame as they don’t usually have a lot of power. Until I found this one, the Black & Decker Pivot! He’s lightweight and super fast to pull out of the pantry for a quick clean up!
Honestly, this vacuum is amazing! I got mine for Christmas 2015. Yes, 5 years ago, and I can still say it’s amazing! It has so much power to it; it vacuums up everything! I’ve only had the battery run out one time; it was when we were moving, and I cleaned the whole house for the entire day. So I don’t blame it
I hate to admit this, but I didn’t know that there was a removable filter that you had to take and shake out for the first two years. Yes, I emptied the chamber, but I didn’t know about the filter. I didn’t notice it, and it still worked great! Shhh… don’t tell anyone how dumb I was!
Besides, you cant lift a Roomba up and vacuum huge spiders off the ceiling like you can with this handheld vacuum! (Just this past week, it was two mornings in a row that I had to climb on the bathroom counter and get ’em!)
Both time & money saved, as it’s very convient for a quick clean and money saved as this is a quality vacuum, and I expect it to last a long time!
3. An Amazon prime membership
This sounds so silly, as everyone must have it by now, right? Nope, they don’t, but it’s such a lifesaver! Every one should find a way to fit this into their budget. It’s $119 a year for an annual subscription or $12.99 a month. But the main question busy mom’s ask is, “Is it worth it?”
“The actual value of Amazon Prime is estimated to be around $784 annually after all of its individual perks and benefits are considered, according to a recent analysis by JPMorgan”, says Business Insider. So the resounding answer is yes! Click here for your 30 day free trial to Prime.
You get free shipping, two-day shipping, movies, free ebooks, music, file storage, and more! Prime members also get extra discounts to Whole Foods and member-only deals.
Plus, there’s Prime Reload, which gives you 2% by linking up your debit card and reloading your “available shopping balance” from there! Saving money without the lure of a credit card is a great option!
Their Subscribe & Save program also offers great perks! You pick out which items you order all the time, like bar soap or diaper pail liners, and you signup to get them regularly delivered to your door; with this you can save up to 15% on these purchases! Amazon Prime Family also offers 20% off diapers and special baby registry benefits!
Don’t forget to look for available Prime Membership discounts:
Prime Discounted Monthly offering is just $5.99/month for qualifying customers with an EBT or Medicaid card
Prime Student has a 6-month trial and then $6.49 a month
Amazon also has their Signature Visa, where you get 3% back at Whole Foods, 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores. 1% back on utilities and all other purchases (see terms & conditions for current details).
Don’t forget you can get a 30-day free trial on all Amazon Prime!
Money saved! You will find great deals on Amazon, but you might need to spend some time digging through reviews and products.
4. Easy & fast dinners
Meal kits certainly aren’t new anymore, so the novelty has worn off. They’re not just for “fun” anymore, but they are a lifesaver! And there are so many different companies you can choose from, meal kits for any diet and lifestyle!
We like EveryPlate, as it’s one of the cheapest out there at $4.99 a serving! Meal kits save me so much time and brain angst (is that even a thing?). But you get me, I mean I would waste so much time trying to figure out what to make for dinners for the week. Then I have to go buy it all, and the prep it. Ugh! My brain hurts just thinking about it!
With EveryPlate, it takes me 12 minutes every month to go into their dashboard and pick my meals. That’s it. The recipes are easy to make, tasty, and I feel good about not serving up a frozen pizza or take out every night.
We have also started trying Dinnerly too. I’m not into blindly following brands, I like to be sure that I am getting the best deal for the best value out there! So of course I am going to try the competition! Dinnerly and Everyplate are similar in cost, program, and quality.
YET, Dinnerly just started offering extra protein portions (in case you want to make a little more). AND, they just started offering desserts too! This next week I signed up to get a caramel apple spice cake and the following week pumpkin pie cheesecake bars! (fall flavored treats are my weakness). Click the here to start making meal time easy (finally!) and treating your family!
Don’t get me wrong, meal kits have their drawbacks, sometimes the cucumber arrives soft, or it’s not enough for my hubs, but overall it’s a great option, and it totally works for us!
We also use our trusty old slow cooker! It’s still great for making a good amount of food that we can use as quick leftover meals throughout the week. Things like chicken fajitas, or three-bean chili, or mac & cheese are great options.
This slow cooker is great as it’s programable for temp & time. Then when it’s done cooking, it switches to warm mode, so you don’t overcook your dinner! It also comes with a temperature probe, so if you’re cooking meats you can be doubly sure it’s fully cooked!
On my wish list is this Instant Pot; I mean, it has 4 1/2 stars with over 100,000 reviews! That’s crazy, right! Besides, any gadget that says it’s perfect for beginners is for me!
Time & money saved! But more so, my sanity as I hated trying to decide what to make for dinner!
Mom life must haves for our kids
So we wouldn’t be busy moms if it wasn’t for our kiddos, right? These things are ones that I love, and have made this crazy journey a lot easier!
5.Honest Company products
So this sounds corny, but I honestly love Honest Products! Actress Jessica Alba started the brand. Honest’s bio page says, “When she couldn’t find one brand to trust for all her everyday needs, she had to create it. And she knew that there had to be others out there looking for safe products, simple solutions, and clear information about their choices, just like her.”
Did I ever tell you that I am a natural skeptic? When someone says their product is safe and uses only the best ingredients, I look to the experts to tell the truth. I use the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep app on my phone all the time for this! I scan the barcode of an item, and it tells me if it’s considered safe by their 3rd party unbiased testing. EWG isa “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.” Their app doesn’t have every product in its database, but they have a lot (mostly in the beauty and cleaning area).
When I am standing in Target and looking for something for my kiddo, I scan all the brands to find the one that is the least toxic, and then I go to Amazon to check out the reviews on that item. If people love it, then I buy it!
I just used it this past month, we stayed at my mom’s house for a few days, and my daughter used their bubble bath; she loved all the bubbles. But a few days later, she broke out in a rash, sure enough, I found it was rated an 8 (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst). Whoops!
So I went to target and scanned a few and settled on The Honest Company’s lavender bubble bath, and it was rated a 1! I bought it, and it worked great (as much as a bubble bath works), the bubbles lasted forever, smelled great, and she loved every second of it! (oh and no rash!)
The Honest Company Truly Calming Lavender Shampoo & Body Wash
The Honest Company Truly Calming Conditioner
The Honest Company Truly Calming Bubble Bath
I feel great about these products as I know they’re safe (peace of mind is priceless), work great, and don’t cost a fortune!
Mental space & time saved! As I don’t wonder anymore (or feel guilty) about knowing that the products I use on her are safe!
6.The best safety in the industry
Along the same vein of keeping our kiddos safe, I researched a lot of items when I was pregnant, and one of the most researched items is a car seat! I finally chose the Britax B-Safe 35 (funny story here), and then when she got older, the Britax Boulevard ClickTight convertible car seat.
I honestly spent way too much time agonizing over the car seat choices. I wanted the best for her without spending a fortune. Yes, Britax is a teeny tiny bit expensive, but a car seat is so important, as a bad car seat can have horrible repercussions!
Anyway, funny story, so I was agonizing over which to choose for weeks. One day, as I watched TV, a clip about Prince William & Kate came on, as they just had their first baby. The TV shot was of them standing at the top of some stairs, walking down and outside to their car. Prince William was holding the car seat, and I recognized the colors (black & red) of the car seat.
I paused it, screenshot it, and zoomed in; sure enough, it was a Britax B-Safe! Within two minutes, I was on Amazon and ordered it! If this was the brand & model that the Royal Family trusted, then this was the one for me! Problem solved, no more worries!
All of their models’ rates very high for safety, their quality is great, and they are easy to use!
Peace of mind! Knowing that I have done everything I can to protect my daughter, while in the car, is important to me!
7. Car Snacks
A busy mom’s best friend is without a doubt her car snacks! Car snacks for the kiddo and absolutely car snacks for us!
Car snacks keep everyone happy, and they keep you out of the drive-through! Oh, and did I mention that when your kiddos are eating the snacks they’re not asking you 459 questions!
I have two go-to’s for this.
Emerald nut mix, variety pack 100 calories packs. Right now, it’s $9.44 for the box of 18 small individual packs. That’s $.52 a pack.
Nature’s Bakery Whole Grain Fig Bar – these are the best, as they don’t harden into rocks when your car has been sitting out in the freezing cold. They don’t melt in the summer, and they don’t crumble and get a mess everywhere! Plus, they’re tasty and not total garbage nutritionally speaking!
Time & money saved, as you’re not stopping for fast food! More importantly, I can say that the magic of car snacks has saved my own personal sanity!
Mom life must haves for ourselves
8.An organized life
If I had to get married again (and not to my husband), I would marry Trello! Seriously, I feel that strongly about this app! If you’re not familiar with Trello, it’s basically a place where you can put your entire life & brain to help keep you organized!
Picture this; it’s like a giant whiteboard with lists and sticky notes, links, files, and images. It’s sharable so you can work with people on projects too! It gives you the big picture and zero’s in on the tiny details. It’s for desktop and mobile, and it’s free! Yup, FREE!
If you have a daily planner or 489 sticky notes, then you have to check out Trello!
If you absolutely love your pen & paper style organizing, then check out my Brain Dump printables! It’s for when you’ve got way too much swirling around in your brain. You lay it all out in formatted sections, and it helps you plan, prioritize & delegate your to-do list!
Time & sanity saved! I don’t forget things nearly as much (but I’m not perfect).
9.A delicious nutritional home run
Garden of Life Sport Certified Grass Fed Clean Whey Protein
vanilla or chocolate flavor
24 grams of protein
no added hormones, sugars, or rbst free, and gluten free
As busy mom’s we’re run ragged sometimes. So much to do, and it’s easy to forget about taking care of ourselves. Or we push it to the back burner, always meaning to get to it later, but never actually doing it.
We know we feel better when we take care of ourselves, yet it’s hard to prioritize yourself over your to-do list (at least I do). So make a promise to yourself to start taking better care of you! For me, that looks like having a healthy smoothie! For you, it could look totally different, and that’s fine!
My favorite protein powder is Garden of Life Whey Protein Powder, I don’t need anything crazy with 78 grams of protein, I just need something to feed my body, without a ton of crazy chemicals. (Yes, I do realize that protein powders are processed, but this is a very well respected brand, and it was recommended to me by super knowledgeable staff at a natural grocery store.)
“We start with what goes IN our products—true, whole food ingredients. But we don’t stop there. We also pay very close attention to what we keep OUT of them. And once again, we look at food—real nutrition food. When is the last time you picked up an apple, turned to read the ingredients, and saw a list of chemicals? If it’s not in your food, then we don’t want it in our supplements. We use third-party (never self-affirmed) certifications to prove we are clean!” (source).
My base recipe…
1 scoop of protein powder
1 frozen banana
1/2 can full-fat coconut milk
2 Tbs chia seeds
1/3 can pumpkin puree with 1 tsp of pumpkin pie seasoning
a handful of frozen mixed berries with 1 tsp of vanilla
These smoothies are a part of 21 Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide, which I did last year! I felt so good about focusing on my health and I plan to do the program again (as life happens, right).
For those of you a little wary of the can of coconut milk, I want you to try it at least once. It’s delicious, and it fills me up all day long! Yes, it has a lot of fat in it, but so many vitamins and nutrients. I’m not a food or weight loss blogger, so I won’t try and convince you of the scientific health benefits.
It’s delicious (truly, I’m not exaggerating), and it makes me feel great, and it’s healthy! That’s good enough for me. Besides, when I make it in my Vitamix, cleaning up is super easy! I just give it a quick rinse in the sink, pour some dish soap in it, fill it with hot water, put it back on the base, and turn it on for 40 seconds! No taking apart pieces and scrubbing it! (of course, if I use dairy, then I do put it through the dishwasher)
Time saved! Smoothies are quick and easy, plus I feel good knowing that I am taking care of myself so that I can have the energy to take care of my daughter and answer her 45,871 questions!
10.Chug Chug Glug
That’s code for drink more water! We all know this; it’s been drummed into our head with 1000 hammers. Yet, it’s still true; we all need to drink more water!
I love my Hydro Flask! It keeps my water cold for FO-EV-ER! It never sweats, I have dropped it a billion times, and it only has one dent (haha). I love the lid with the loop, as I can hang it from my mommy hook on my little one’s stroller. (Mommy hooks are great too, you can hang anything with it!)
My current one I’ve had for two years, and the only reason I needed a new one is I lost my older one, which was at least three years old (my Amazon order history only goes back so many years, I guess). So that ‘a good sign; they last forever! Well worth the price! Plus, they come in super cute colors!
Oh, and did I mention Hydro Flask makes a wine tumbler too! Ha! This might absolutely help me be a better mom!
Money saved, as this water bottle lasts forever! Probably money saved too, as I eat less snacks and less at meal time as I’m well hydrated.
11.A simple cute & comfy style
This is a hard one, as I’m a little bit ashamed of my path to this product. I got to a point where I was getting a bit scroungy; you know sloppy. My sweatpants were old, and the t-shirts were stained. Sexy huh!?!
It was time for a mini mommy wardrobe makeover! I have been reading a lot about minimalism and especially capsule wardrobes, and am in love with the nice, basic simplicity of it! It appeals to me on all levels! Find pieces that fit & flatter, that all go together and stick to it!
So I went through, purged my closet (I got rid of 75% of my clothes), and focused on an inexpensive capsule wardrobe! The base of the collection is these amazing IUGA high waist yoga pants! I got a pair in black, and I love them! With 4 1/2 stars with over 25,000 reviews, they have to be amazing, right? They are! An absolute staple for this mom life must have list!
And they don’t cost a fortune either! Just $25 for this pair! I did buy some nice yoga pants at Target before finding these, but they didn’t come in black). These IUGA pants…
come in 26 colors
inside waistband pocket for keys
hip pocket for phone
aren’t see through (whew!)
30 day money back love it guarantee
Time & sanity saved! As I don’t stare blankly at my closet for 12 minutes every am, wondering what to wear, of if it will look okay! It’s a quick scan the closet, grab the pants and it’s go time!
12.Survival in a can
If I didn’t mention my absolute favorite must have for moms, I would be doing you a disservice. I would also be hiding the real me. I don’t want to do that, as that’s lame. So my favorite mom life must have is canned wine.
Let me explain. I love canned wine. I really do. I like wine, but I don’t like opening a whole bottle of it. If I drank a whole bottle, that’s bad news. Yes, I could put a stopper in a bottle and save it. But my favorite one is The Bubbles, a sparkling white wine (kind of like a Pinot Gris). So if I used a stopper, the bubbles wouldn’t be as amazing a few days later.
A can size is perfect, usually consumed over two nights. And then I don’t have to worry about it going bad, or feeling like I need to drink more than I should, just because I don’t want to “waste” a bottle.
Besides, canned wine is coming up in quality and popularity! It’s not like those jugs you see at discount grocery stores for $4.99. Trust me; it’s delicious!
The Bubbles is my favorite, and you can get it from Whole Foods through Amazon Prime delivery! Plus, add a snack tray and a heavenly chocolate bar from WF, and you’re set! This is my perfect meal for a relaxing evening on my own!
I wish that I could say that this saved me time or money. But this is just something that makes me happy!
At the end of the day
As busy moms, we have our hands full, not to mention our brains! We need all the help we can get, and I am not too proud to accept help from great tools and resources! These mom life must haves help me be a better mom by taking away the unnecessary, automating what can be, and making me feel better in my skin, my mind, and in my heart!
Posts related to mom life must haves:
The Secret Formula for Getting the Best Gift for Mom
Want to be a Stay at Home Mom? Read This First!
Mamas Talk Money Goals!
What’s your mom life must have item? Let me know in the comments below!
The post Game Changing Mom Life Must Haves! appeared first on Money for the Mamas.
The time off work spent with a newborn is one of the most memorable times in a parentâs life. Like any other major life event, financial planning is crucial to make the experience as stress-free as possible. Saving for maternity leave takes strategic financial preparation, especially in the United States where there isnât a mandate on paid leave for new parents. Although women are still outnumbering men when it comes to taking parental leave, paternity leave is also on the rise.
Saving for maternity leave (or paternity leave) doesnât have to be a grueling process as long as you plan ahead. Rather than stressing about finding additional sources of income, itâs helpful to start by finding areas where you can save. With so many unpredictable factors affecting our daily lives, it helps to get as detailed as possible with your plan.
Below, weâve outlined some of the best ways to stay on track financially while saving for maternity leave.
10 Tips for Saving for Maternity Leave
Check In With HR
As soon as you plan to notify your workplace of your pregnancy, stop by your HR department to clarify parental leave policies. These policies include health insurance, using vacation and paid time off as part of your leave, collecting partial payment for maternity leave, and claiming short-term disability.
Your HR department might also help you maximize a flexible spending account (FSA), which will allow you to devote more pre-tax dollars to upcoming medical and child care expenses. Confirm what your insurance policy covers in regards to the duration of hospital stays, prescription drugs, medical materials, and how long the baby will be covered under your policy after birth. After clarifying the details with HR, youâll want to discuss your upcoming maternity or paternity leave with your supervisor and coworkers too.
Take Charge of Your Spending
If you donât actively stick to and monitor your budget, now is the time to start. For at least 30 days, track everything you and other family members spend to get a clear idea of where your money goes each month. Pick a time for a biweekly family financial meeting to maintain your progress.
Successful saving is about defining a realistic plan of action with all parties who spend and generate income in your household. Saving for maternity leave is all about determining what your income and expenses will look like when youâre out of work and caring for baby, at least to the extent that you can reasonably project them.
Crunch the Numbers to Maximize Your Budget
Too many families saving for maternity leave rely heavily on estimates rather than doing the math to figure out specifics. Be sure to project your monthly income during maternity leave.
Factor in payouts you will receive for any partially paid maternity leave by your employer, unused vacation days, and any other extra income you plan on generating by freelancing or working part-time. Then, subtract your maternity leave income from your expenses. If itâs negative, then that figure is the absolute minimum youâll need to save for each month you wonât be working when the baby arrives.
When you make the time to specifically predict your budget, you eliminate the confusion and stress that comes with unforeseen expenses. Don’t forget to also account for spending changes that happen after the baby arrives. Baby supplies and gear can get expensive quite fast. Plus, you might find yourself spending more on takeout and outsourcing cleaning or errands as youâll have less time on your hands with a demanding newborn.
Automate Your Savings
When it comes to automating your savings, the concept is simple: If you never see the money, you wonât be tempted to spend it. Establish an automatic savings plan through your bank that will automatically transfer money from checking into savings.
Another option is contacting your employer to have a portion of your paycheck directly deposited into your savings account each payday. Using a budgeting app that allows you to see how much youâre stashing away in real-time also helps.
Make Couponing a Family Activity
Savings can really add up by recognizing opportunities to capture low hanging fruit opportunities like couponing. There are a ton of free online couponing sites, but donât miss out on old fashioned couponing and start a binder or folder as well. Be sure you donât negate your hard work couponing by splurging.
Try to reduce all non-essential expenses in your budget and dedicate that money to your savings account instead. If you get a tax return or bonus, skip buying the fancy crib and put it right into savings. By connecting with family members, friends, and neighbors you can take advantage of gently used baby items to save cash. Also, it canât hurt to see if there is a second-hand store in your area specifically for baby clothes and supplies, like Once Upon a Child.
Get a Credit Card That Helps You Save
Although itâs important to be wise with your credit card usage, your credit card spending can help you with your budgeting goals. Depending on your stage of life, certain credit card choices might make more sense than others.
As a reminder, no matter which card you use, always use the same best practices to increase your credit score. For example, make an effort to keep your utilization low and always pay your bill on time. After all, making payments late can have the biggest negative impact on your credit score.
Choose a Bank that Helps Your Financial Goals
Stick to accounts that are free of balance requirements and fees, and compare rates at local banks and credit unions. Remember, smaller financial institutions sometimes offer more competitive rates than major banks, so donât be afraid to do some shopping around.
If youâre comfortable banking online only, some online banks offer very competitive rates. For example, a high yield savings account will help your money work for you as youâre saving for maternity leave.
Take Advantage of Family-Specific Discounts and Tax Credits
With a little research, youâll likely find a wide array of discount programs and free resources for expectant parents. Donât forget to take advantage of tax credits, too.
For example, you may be able to claim the Child Tax Credit for the year your baby was born (depending on the time of birth), deduct qualifying child care expenses, and contributions to a College 529 savings plan. All of these will reduce your taxable income, leaving more money in your pocket.
Plan to Keep Your Professional Skills Sharp
There are certain realities about taking extended time off from work for parental leave that are inevitable. The time away from your job could cause you to feel out of the loop or more stressed when you return.
Taking some time during your parental leave to maintain key skills or read up on company/industry news could help you maintain job security (and therefore financial security) when you get back to work.
Avoid the Baby Registry Trap
Baby registries are big business and can be big budget busters. Only register for the items that truly need to be brand new and reach out to friends, family, and consignment stores for gently used items before you splurge on a registry.
From financial coverage for maternity leave to childcare costs, increased medical expenses, and college savings accounts, thereâs bound to be a lot on your mind. Fortunately, youâre not on this parenting journey alone. There are plenty of families making it work with lean budgets who are stressing less by following tips like the ones weâve compiled in this graphic below:
budget that works for you.
Make a game plan and take advantage of resources as youâre prepping for parental leave. Keeping your finances in check while spending time away from work undoubtedly provides a sense of reassurance. Take control of your budgeting goals and get creative with new ways to generate income and save money.
Sources: National Partnership | US Census | CBS
The post Saving for Maternity Leave: How to Financially Prepare Your Family appeared first on MintLife Blog.
You can do plenty of things to improve your budget, and it's not all about pain and suffering, as many would have you believe. Everyone has a few things they overspend on. The challenge lies in identifying those particular items and weeding them out. A good place to begin is with restaurant spending, grocery bills, and impulse buying. A wise general philosophy is to assign a destination for every dollar you earn and place that category on your budget. Try cutting restaurant expenditures in half, reducing impulse buys at convenience stores, and shopping for groceries just once each week to regulate what goes toward food items.
Refinance your education debt
If you have any education debt still hanging around after all these years, refinancing student loans through a private lender is a way to lessen your monthly expenses. Not only can you get a longer repayment period, but have the chance to snag a favorable interest rate. But the clincher for money-saving enthusiasts is that your monthly payments can instantly go way down. That means extra cash for whatever you want. Use the excess to fatten savings or IRA accounts, or pay off high-interest credit card debt.
Install a programmable thermostat
For less than $20, it's possible to chop at least three percent off your utility bills and perhaps much more than that.
Programmable thermostats are easy to install. You don't need special tools or advanced skills. Be sensible about summer and winter settings and you'll see a difference in your electric bill almost immediately, especially during the hottest months of the year. Don't forget to program the device to go into low-use mode while you're away for long weekends or longer vacations.
Join a shopping club
Although shopping clubs come with annual membership fees, the savings on groceries, household items, and gasoline usually offset them within a month or two of actively using the membership. That leaves the other months of the year for you to save money on household necessities.
For people who drive a lot, shopping clubs with on-site gas stations offer one of the best deals going. Not only do the clubs offer gasoline for about 10 cents off the regular price, but some also offer free car washes and coupons for repair work at participating shops. Although shopping clubs are a win for most anyone, a family of three or more can log thousands per year in savings.
Refinance your home or car
If you have owned your home or car long enough to ride the interest rate waves, you likely qualify for a refinancing agreement. This strategy is excellent for consumers who have better credit now than when they made the original purchase.
Young couples are perfectly positioned to refinance a home after several years of making payments on it. Likewise, anyone who still owes on a vehicle and can get a lower interest rate should look into a car or truck refi. Not only can you get additional months to pay off the obligation, but with a lower rate, you stand to save a nice chunk of money.
Take bagged lunches to work
One of the oldest, more reliable ways to instantly cut personal expenses is to prepare and take your own lunch to work each day. Not only do you save money by not eating out or buying lunch in the company cafeteria, but you also have added control over what you eat. That means you're doing a favor for your wallet and your health at the same time.
Don't fall into the rut of eating at your desk. Consider taking your bagged meal outside and enjoying the scenery, taking a walk after eating, or joining friends in the cafeteria to socialize.
Use public transportation as often as possible
If you live on or near a bus or light-rail route, do the logistical planning necessary to travel to work at least a few times each week by public transit instead of by car.
Unless you reside in a small town, chances are you have access to buses and trains for commuting purposes. Once you get into a habit of using the public transit system, consider buying a one-month or annual pass, which can represent a major discount on one-time fare prices. Public transportation can take a bit longer to get you to your destination, but it's easy enough to make use of the time reading, catching up on work, or just relaxing.
Use credit cards wisely
If you use credit cards to make purchases you can't afford, you're headed for trouble. But if you use your plastic wisely, you can reap real benefits.
If you have a good credit rating, you'll likely qualify for cashback cards that give a percentage of your money back on some or all of your purchases. You can use that cash to pay for a portion of your monthly credit card bill. You could also let your cashback savings accumulate and use it to pay for larger purchases in the future.
Just make sure not to outspend your monthly budget so you're able to pay your credit card balance off in full each month. Keeping a balance on your cards is counterproductive because you'll also be paying interest fees.
If youâre looking for ways to put some extra cash in your pocket, make sure to take advantage of credit card rewards programs.
Credit card companies and banks make some of their money from the merchant interchange fees that are charged when you use your card.
As an incentive for you to use their cards, many credit card issuers pass some of those funds on to the consumer in the form of credit card rewards.
If you have good credit and the ability and discipline to pay off your credit cards in full each month, you should try to maximize your credit card rewards. Otherwise you may be leaving a lot of money on the table.
But it can be challenging to navigate the world of credit card rewards. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different credit cards exist, and the type and amount of rewards vary with each card.
There are three main kinds of rewards card offers available:
Bank and credit card points: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, etc.
Airline miles and hotel points: Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors points, etc.
Cash back: Straight cash that can be redeemed either as statement credits or checks mailed to you.
How to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards
You have three different ways to maximize any credit card rewards program:
The sign-up bonus or welcome offer: Many cards offer a large number of miles or points as a welcome bonus for signing up and using the card to make purchases totaling a specific amount within a specified time period.
Rewards for spending: Most rewards credit cards offer between one and five points for every dollar you spend on the card. Some cards offer the same rewards on every purchase, while others offer a greater reward for buying certain products.
Perks: Simply having certain credit cards can get you perks like free checked bags on certain airlines, hotel elite status or membership with airline lounge clubs and other retail partners.
Usually, the rewards for signing up are much higher than the rewards you get from ongoing spending, so you may want to pursue sign-up bonuses on multiple credit cards as a way of racking up rewards.
Consider a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, where you can get 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 in the first three months of having the card. That means that while youâre meeting that minimum spending requirement, youâre earning 15 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. Compare that to the one or two points youâll earn with each dollar of spending after meeting the minimum spending. You can see the difference.
Other than getting the welcome bonus offers for signing up for new credit cards, another great way to maximize your rewards is by paying attention to bonus categories on your cards. Some cards offer a flat 1 or 2 points for every dollar you spend.
How Applying for Credit Cards Affects Your Credit Score
Itâs important to be aware of how applying for new credit cards affects your credit score.
Your credit score consists of five factors, and one of the largest factors is your credit utilization.
Credit utilization is the percentage of your total available credit that youâre currently using. If you have one credit card with a $10,000 credit limit and you charge $2,000 to that card, then your utilization percentage is 20%. But if you have 10 different cards, each with $10,000 credit limits, then that your credit utilization percentage is only 2%.
Since a lower credit utilization is better, having multiple credit cards can actually help this part of your credit score.
New credit â how recently youâve applied for new credit cards â accounts for about 10% of your credit score. When you apply for a new credit card, your credit score usually will dip 3-5 points. However, if youâre conscientious with your credit card usage, your score will come back up in a few months.
What to Watch Out for When Using Credit Card Rewards
While itâs true that careful use of credit cards can be a boon, you should watch out for pitfalls.
The first thing is to make sure that you have the financial ability, discipline and organization to manage all of your credit cards. Missing payments and paying credit card interest and fees will quickly sap up any rewards you might earn.
Another thing to be aware of is the psychology of credit card rewards. It can be easy to justify additional spending because youâre getting rewards or cash back, but remember that buying something that you donât need in order to get 2% cash back is a waste of 98% of your money.
Credit card rewards are alluring, but what do they really cost? Hereâs what you should know about the dark side of credit card rewards.
The Best Credit Cards to Get Started
Before signing up for a new credit card, itâs best to pay off your existing cards first â otherwise the fees and interest will quickly outweigh any rewards you earn.
If youâre ready to start shopping rewards offers, here are five credit cards to consider. Note that these introductory offers are subject to change:
Chase Sapphire Preferred â The Sapphire Preferred card earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards and currently offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. It comes with a $95 annual fee.
Capital One Venture Rewards â The Capital One Venture Rewards is offering 100,000 Venture miles, which can be used on any airline or at any hotel. It also comes with a $95 annual fee.
Barclays American AAdvantage Aviator Red â With the AAdvantage Aviator Red card, youâll get 50,000 American Airlines miles after paying the $99 annual fee and making only one purchase.
American Express Hilton Honors â If youâre looking for a hotel card, consider the no-fee Hilton Honors card, which comes with a signup bonus of 80,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 in three months. There is no annual fee.
Bank of America Premium Rewards â The Bank of America Premium Rewards card comes with a bonus of 50,000 Preferred Rewards points (worth $500) after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card has a $95 annual fee.
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The Bottom Line
The best credit card is the one that gets you the rewards that help you do what is most important to you.
If youâre looking to maximize travel credit, then pick an upcoming trip and figure out what airline miles and hotel chain points youâll need. Then pick the credit cards that give those miles and points. If you want to maximize your cash back, look for a card with a good signup bonus that either offers cash back or bank points that can be converted into cash.
Dan Miller is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Financing the purchase of essential equipment lets businesses preserve cash for working capital, hiring staff, expanding marketing efforts or other purposes. Equipment financing can be done with term loans, SBA-backed loans, lines of credit and credit cards. Equipment loans are generally easier to get than other forms of financing and may require no down payment, since the loan will be secured by the equipment being purchased. If youâre not sure which option to take, consider talking to a financial advisor experienced in this area.
Many sorts of businesses use financing to acquire a variety of equipment types. Construction companies finance the purchase of bulldozers and cranes, restaurants finance refrigerators and ovens, fitness centers finance workout machines and computers to run their offices, to name a few.
Loans may be any amount up to the value of the equipment, with 100% loan-to-value financing, although 20% down payments could be required. Interest rates range from under 5% to more than 30%, with repayment terms extending 10 years or more, up to the useful life of the equipment. Approval for an equipment financing request often depends on the business credit score, size of the down payment and the existence of a business plan documenting cash flow projections adequate to repay the borrowed sum
Types of Equipment Financing
Businesses obtain equipment financing from a number of sources, including traditional banks large and small, online lenders, SBA-affiliated lenders and credit cards.
Term loans. Local and national banks and online lenders make equipment loans of one to 10 years in length for up to 100% of the equipment value, at interest rates ranging from 4% to 25%. Banks favor loans to established businesses with good credit scores and well-documented repayment plans. Online lenders have more flexible guidelines but also may charge higher rates and fees.
Small Business Administration 504 loans. These government-guaranteed loans are made by nonprofit Certified Development Company (CDC) lenders certified by the SBA. Known as 504 loans, they can only be for up to 40% of the cost of acquiring fixed assets, and require 10% down by the borrower, with a private lender providing the remaining 40%.
Lines of credit. Revolving lines of credit arranged through banks or online lenders can be set up in advance and used to purchase equipment as needed. Borrowers only pay for funds they have actually borrowed through the line of credit, and monthly payments may vary with changes in the balance owed. Lines of credit usually donât require collateral or down payments but have higher interest rates than loans.
Credit cards. Business credit cards are easy to get as long as a business has a good credit score and some operating history. The application process is simple and funds are available immediately upon approval. Some other loans may take days or weeks before funding. However, the amount that can be tapped with a credit card is limited and rates and fees are higher than alternatives.
Businesses that lack the credit score, operating history or down payment needed to qualify for a loan or other purchase financing can acquire equipment by leasing it. Leasing requires no down payment and approval is much easier to get than when requesting a loan. Monthly lease payments may be less than a loan payment would be, freeing up additional cash. And when the lease term is up, the business can return the equipment without owing any more.
The downside of leasing is that it ultimately can cost more than buying. While monthly lease payments could be lower than loan payments, the total of lease payments may be more than the amount of all the loan payments. Also, while there is no down payment, the business wonât own the equipment at the end of the lease.
The Bottom Line
Equipment financing gives businesses access to essential machinery, fixtures, furniture and other assets without the need to devote large sums of cash to outright purchase. Equipment loans are available from a variety of sources, including government-guaranteed loans, and are generally easier to get than other forms of financing. Be sure to avoid taking out equipment loans with terms that exceed the useful life of the asset. Otherwise, you risk being on the hook to make payments on a piece of equipment that has already been retired or scrapped. With this in mind, leasing may be a better option than buying for equipment that quickly becomes obsolete.
Tips for Small Businesses
Before signing a loan or arranging for another way to finance an equipment purchase, consider talking it over with an experienced financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesnât have to be hard. SmartAssetâs free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If youâre ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
How you finance equipment can affect your taxes. Tax rules for independent contractors differ from what a traditional employee experiences, but theyâre not overly complicated. Getting familiar with the basics can make filing your taxes as an independent contractor easier to navigate.