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A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student

The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

 You are getting ready to send your child off to college. Before you start helping them pack their belongings, there is one thing you need to do.

You need to help them create a budget. You need to teach them how to manage their money so they can learn the tools they’ll use long after they graduate.

WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED A BUDGET?

The truth is everyone needs a budget. It does not matter your age. If you are dealing with money, a budget is necessary.

  1. Allows you to control your money. Rather than your money telling you what it wants to do, you get to tell your money where it needs to go. You are always in control when you have a budget.
  2. It teaches financial skills. A budget helps ensure that expenses such as rent, tuition, food, insurance, transportation, and housing are paid – before spending money on the fun stuff. (It also helps to make sure you don’t spend more than you make.)
  3. Makes you aware of where your money goes. When you use a budget, you see how you spend. It is very simple to see if too much is going toward dining out when you should be building your savings.
  4. Helps you track your goals. You need to cover expenses but you should also work on building savings at the same time. Your budget allows you to not only see those goals but track them in real time.

DOESN’T A BUDGET MEAN YOU CAN’T HAVE FUN?

Not at all! If anything, your budget will allow you to have guilt-free fun.

For example, the budget may allow you to spend $50 a week dining out. That means you can go to dinner with friends once (possibly twice) a week and enjoy yourself. You won’t be left wondering how you are now going to make rent.

WHAT TYPE OF BUDGET SHOULD YOUR STUDENT USE?

There are various methods of budgeting such as the 50/30/20 and the zero-based budget. For most college students, the zero-based is the simplest and easiest to follow.

The reason is that you track everything. You give every penny a job. That means if you earn $1,500 for the month that you “spend” the entire $1,500.

You will first cover the needs (food, shelter, transportation) and then your wants. If there is money “leftover” after this is done, it can be added to your savings.

You can use other types but if you have never budgeted before, using this method is the simplest.

WHAT SHOULD A COLLEGE STUDENT INCLUDE IN A BUDGET?

The budget will vary for each person, as the income and expense will be different. However, these are the most common categories that need to be included in a budget:

  • Rent
  • Renter’s insurance
  • Car payment
  • Car insurance (also saving for annual renewal fees)
  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Utilities (phone, electricity, gas, water, etc.)
  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Entertainment (movies, games, concerts)
  • Dining out
  • Emergency fund savings

Again, you may have items that are not included above or see some that you do not need.

However, the most important thing of all is that every penny is given a job. Account for everything you will spend each month so you never have too much month and not enough money.

HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR BUDGET?

For most college students, apps or digital trackers are the best options.  But, before you rush and sign up, keep the following in mind.

  1. Cost. Many apps are free and they will work perfectly fine. Other apps have a monthly fee attached to them. If you plan to use one of them, make sure you include that as one of your regular expenses. However, do not let the cost alone be a single factor when it comes to clicking the sign-up button.
  2. Security. Your security trumps all else. You need to make sure the app uses encryption as well as two-factor authorization.

Some of the best apps include:

  • Mint
  • You Need a Budget (YNAB)
  • PocketGuard
  • Mvelopes

However, your student may also like the traditional paper and pencil method – and that is OK as well.

Find the right one that works best for your student. That is all that matters.

TEACHING THEM TO BUDGET

Knowing you need a budget and where to track it is just the beginning. You need to teach your child how to budget.

Start by looking at each category that they need on their budget. You may already know the cost for each category but if not, you may need to make phone calls or do research to know.

For example, you know the rent for the apartment is $850 a month but how much are the average utilities? Ask the manager for these costs so you can include them in the budget.

Next, decide how much they want to allow themselves to spend on food. Show them how much a meal costs for a single person at each restaurant you eat at so they can create an average.

You will then have them decide how much “fun money” they want to include as well. You can base this on them wanting to go to the movies two times a month, one concert a month, or attending three events.

Now you can see the expenses for your student. Add their income to the budget and deduct the expenses. They will see if they are operating in the black (money left over) or in the red (spending more than they make).

Show them how to adjust the numbers by increasing their savings or lowering the amount they can spend on clothes – until the budget equals zero. Zero meaning they are spending every penny they earn.

And making them keep track now will help ensure they stay on track well into the future.

 

 

 

The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

How to Transfer Your 401(k) When Changing to a New Job: 401(k) Rollover Guide

It’s easy to forget about old 401(k) plans when changing to a new job. Some people simply forget about it because the company that manages it never reminds them. Others didn’t forget about their old account, but they’ve been putting off the rollover because it sounds hard.

Many companies don’t make the process easy for customers to roll over their 401(k) accounts from previous jobs. But it can be worth the inconvenience.

By not rolling it over, you might be losing some serious cash. That’s right—losing money, so it’s easy to miss. Here are a few key reasons to prioritize a 401(k) rollover.

3 Reasons to Transfer Your 401(k) to a New Job

There are three main reasons to rollover a 401(k):

1. To reduce fees. If the fees are too high with your previous employer’s 401(k), rolling over a 401(k) can be advantageous.
2. To maximize your money. If you aren’t happy with the investment options in your old 401(k) and your new employer accepts rollover 401(k)s, you might be able to save money while investing in a broader range of investment vehicles.
3. To streamline your investments. If you leave your 401(k) where it is, you may not think about it very often. It’s important to keep tabs on all of your investments so you can make sure they are on track and appropriate for your time horizon and goals.

You May Be Paying Hidden Fees

There are all sorts of fees that go into effect when you open a 401(k), including recordkeeping fees, maintenance fees, and fund fees. Expressed in a percentage, these fees inform the expense ratio of a plan.

Employers may cover those fees until you leave the company. Once you’re gone, that cost might shift to you without you even realizing it.

Fees matter: When you pay a fee on your 401(k), you’re not just losing the cost of the fee; you’re also losing all the compound interest that would grow along with it over time. The sooner you roll your plan over, the more you could potentially save.

You Might Be Missing Out on Better Investments

401(k) accounts grow at different rates depending on which assets you invest in. If the retirement savings plan at your new company—or an individual retirement plan (IRA)—offers a selection of stocks and bonds that better aligns with your financial goals, it might be time to initiate a rollover.

The money that’s sitting in your old 401(k) could potentially grow at a faster rate if you roll it over into a new plan or into an IRA—it’s certainly worth investigating the growth rates of each. Keep in mind that investors can lose money when investing, too, so it always makes sense to consider your personal risk tolerance when deciding how to invest your retirement accounts.

You Could Lose Track of the Account

It’s not your fault, it’s just logistics. It’s harder and more time-consuming to juggle multiple retirement accounts than it is to juggle one. Until you retire, you’ll be managing two (or more) websites, two usernames and passwords, two investment portfolios, and two growth rates for decades.

And if you leave this next job to go to a third (or a fourth, or a fifth), the 401(k) plans could pile up, creating even more tracking work for you. Plus, when you’re no longer with an employer, you might miss alerts about changes that may occur with an old retirement plan.

What to do With Your 401(k) After Getting a New Job

While it’s generally allowed to leave your account in your former employer’s plan when you switch jobs, there are other options.

•  Cash out the account. If you take this route and you’re younger than 59½ years old, you will owe taxes and might also owe early withdrawal penalties depending on how you use the money.
•  Roll over the 401(k) account. You could roll the account into your new employer’s retirement plan (if allowed) or into an IRA.

Cashing Out Early

Should you choose to cash out your 401(k), you will have to pay taxes on the money, and perhaps an additional 10% early withdrawal fee.

That said, there are some circumstances when the 10% fee is waived (but not the income tax), such as when the funds will be used for eligible education expenses, certain medical expenses, or expenses related to a first-time home purchase, among other circumstances.

Rolling Over a 401(k) to Your New Employer’s Plan

The process of rolling over a 401(k) might seem intimidating or inconvenient at first, especially if you’re moving onto your second job and this is the first time you’ll be rolling over a 401(k). In actuality, the actual process of rolling over a 401(k) isn’t too complicated once you’ve decided where your existing funds are going to go.

Advantages of Rolling Over Your 401(k)

Rolling over your 401(k) to a new plan can be advantageous to your overall financial plan. Here are a few ways this transition might be beneficial to your financial well-being.

One Place for Tax-Deferred Money

Transferring your 401(k) to your new employer’s plan can help consolidate all of your tax-deferred dollars into one account. Keeping track of and managing one account may simplify your money management efforts.

A Streamlined Investment Strategy

Not only does consolidating your previous 401(k) with your new 401(k) make money management easier, it can also streamline your investment strategies.

Financial Service Offerings

Some 401(k) plans offer financial services, such as financial advisor consultations, to help employees achieve their retirement goals. If your previous employer didn’t offer this service and your new plan does, taking advantage of this offering may help you achieve an investment plan that meets your exact goals rather than a standardized option.

Access to a Roth Option

An increasing number of employers are offering a Roth 401(k) option in addition to the traditional 401(k) option. With a Roth 401(k), the money you contribute is after-tax—it doesn’t minimize your taxable income. But when you take distributions in retirement, you won’t have to pay taxes on the withdrawal amount. As long as the account has been open for five years and you’re over 59 ½, you can receive tax-free distributions.

A Roth 401(k) option can be appealing if you feel your income in retirement will be higher than your current income. If your new employer offers this benefit and you think it will be advantageous to your financial situation, then rolling over your 401(k) to a Roth 401(k) plan may make sense.

How to Roll Over Your 401(k)

So, how do you transfer your 401(k) to a new job? If you decide to roll your funds into your new employer’s 401(k), you’ll most likely need to:

1. Contact the plan administrator to arrange the rollover. You may need to choose the types of investment you would like before you initiate the rollover. If not, you can take a lump-sum transfer and allocate the funds gradually to different investments of your choosing.
2. Complete any forms required by your employer for the rollover.
3. Request that your former plan administrator send the fund via electronic transfer or a check so you can move the funds directly to the administrator of the new plan.

It’s possible that you might have to wait until your employer’s next open enrollment period to complete the rollover, but you might consider using that time to research the plan’s investment options so you’ll be ready when the time comes.

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Rolling Over a 401(k) Into an IRA

If you choose to roll your 401(k) funds into an IRA that’s not employer-sponsored, a direct rollover is the method that takes most of the guesswork out of the transfer. This means that the funds will be taken from your previous account and rolled directly into the new account.

Doing it this way should avoid your previous lender sending you a check and resulting in any unforeseen early withdrawal tax situations.

Opening a new retirement account online is fairly straightforward, but there are some steps to opening an IRA that might be worth reviewing before you start. Once your funds are rolled over, you’ll be able to choose the investments that work for your retirement goals.

401(k) Rollover Rules

When requesting a transfer, you may either select a direct and indirect rollover. With a direct rollover, the check is made out to the financial institution (for your benefit). Because the funds are directly deposited into the new account, no taxes are withheld.

With an indirect rollover, the check is payable to you, with 20% withheld for taxes. You’ll have 60 days to roll over the funds (80% of your previous plan) into an IRA or other retirement plan. If you want to contribute the full amount of your previous plan, you can add money to bring the lump contribution back up to the balance before rollover. At that point, you’d be able to count the 20% withheld as taxes paid.

The Takeaway

There are many benefits to rolling over a 401(k) after switching jobs, including streamlining your retirement accounts and directing your money so that it suits your individual financial needs and goals. While some may view it as inconvenient, it’s actually a straightforward process whether you want to roll over a 401(k) into your new employer’s plan, or into an IRA.

Not sure which rollover strategy is right for you? SoFi Invest® offers retirement savings plan options. With a SoFi Roth or Traditional IRA, investors have access to a broad range of investment options, member services, and our robust suite of planning and investment tools.

Find out how to take control of your retirement options with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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The post How to Transfer Your 401(k) When Changing to a New Job: 401(k) Rollover Guide appeared first on SoFi.

Source: sofi.com

6 Fun, Inexpensive Ways to Revamp Furniture

FunInexpensiveWaystoRevampFurniture

Dresser Storage

If your country kitchen is running out of room, consider a dresser. Even though you’re used to bureaus being only for bedrooms, it can be a valuable addition to a kitchen for storing napkins, utensils, and more. Repaint the dresser in colors to match your kitchen and you’ll have guests asking where you got your newest piece of kitchen furniture.

Don’t Discard Dingy Dressers

If your furniture is weathered or out of style, that’s not necessarily a reason to replace it. There are plenty of ways to spruce up old dressers, chairs, and tables. Everybody loves quilts, so why not drape one over that old chair that needs re-upholstering? You can also try using colorful fabrics on the fronts of nightstand and dresser drawers. Just get some scrap cloth from your last project or from a fabric store, and attach it to the dresser drawers with a staple gun. To have even more fun with it, we like to paint part of the piece and color-coordinate it with the cloth we’re using.

Handled With Style

If your cabinets are getting old and worn, you can revive them just by replacing the knobs and handles. A good variety should be available inexpensively at your local hardware store. They’ll make your kitchen or bathroom look brand new!

A Gift for Decoration

Dress up an inexpensive set of plastic drawers by covering them in wrapping paper. Choose some paper you love (you can even pick several coordinating designs), and cut the pieces to fit the size of the drawers. Then spread a crafting glue/sealer, such as Mod Podge, on the plastic and smooth the wrapping paper onto it, being careful to eliminate bubbles. Allow to dry, and apply a coat of sealant on top. Not only does the paper look beautiful, but it also hides the contents of the drawers, making everything appear neat and tidy.

Matching Not Necessary

You’ve probably noticed this at the restaurants you frequent, but it’s becoming more and more acceptable nowadays—even hip—to eat your meals on vintage, mismatched chairs. Instead of spending a fortune on a dining-room set, go for the mismatched look and hunt for your chairs at thrift shops and used furniture stores.

Brighten Up the Bookshelf

If you’re looking for an easy, inexpensive way to add a pop of color to a room, look no further than the bookshelf. You can paint the interior back “wall” of the bookshelf a color that either contrasts or coordinates with your decor. It will add a modern touch for not a lot of money! 

Get more great tips on our podcast by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher! You can also sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our daily tips!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

5 Neglected Expenses That Can Ruin Your Vacation Budget

Vacation Budget

5 Neglected Expenses That Can Ruin Your Vacation Budget

With the weather warming up, summer vacation isn’t too far away. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start a vacation budget and account for everything you’ll be paying for that week.

After all, you don’t want to have to cut your relaxation time short because you forgot that you actually have to pay for gas.

But there are other financial surprises too, ones that perhaps you don’t think very much about when sitting down to create your budget. Here are a few that maybe you have not taken into account just yet, but absolutely need to.

Let Mint.com help you create the perfect vacation budget. Click here to get started!

Parking

Despite free public parking not being a popular idea among money-hungry companies for a while now, a lot of us still forget that we have to pay for the damn thing. This may be a few bucks or a few dozen bucks, but either way you can’t forget it when budgeting for your vacation.

Do the research to find out the charges for each place you’re staying or going to. Going to see a ball game? How much does the park charge to park? Going to take the train into the city? How much do they charge and, if need be, how much does valet parking cost?

Add those up, and you might be surprised how much not actively driving your car can run you.

Wi-Fi

These days, Wi-Fi is just about everywhere, and just about everydiv uses it. While the airport Wi-Fi might be free, the hotel you stay in might want a few bucks extra for use of their signal. This is especially true in nice, upscale hotels, where Wi-Fi access could run you $10-$20 a day.

So either annoy your family by checking into some rinky-dink motel, where Wi-Fi is free but everything is roach-ridden and moth-eaten, or factor in the money necessary for Junior to use his iPad on the coziest bed he’s ever slept on.

The Food Bill

Even though it’s part of our daily lives, many people don’t think about food when punching out their budget. And if they do, they vastly underestimate how much stomach fuel actually costs.

This goes for vacations as well. You should find out what restaurants in the area typically charge, so you don’t get blindsided by the high cost of steak. If you’ve rented out a house with a kitchen and fridge, take some time to deduce how much you and your family spend on food at home.

Then, take that total and add a bit more to the food budget. It’s vacation time, after all, and for many, relaxing and unwinding means more burgers and s’mores than during a regular workweek.

Checked Bag Fees

If there’s one thing all travelers can agree is pure evil, airlines charging people to check in their bags has be it. Some airlines, such as Southwest, will let customers get away with some checked bags for free, but expect to fork over $25 or more for each additional one.

Checked bag fees need to be part of your budget every time, because it’s never, ever going away. Airlines make too much money off of it to abandon it simply because we don’t like it.

Either pack minimally, ensuring that you can get away with nothing but carry-ons and maybe one or two checked bags, or put a couple hundred bucks aside in the budget for the over packers in your family.

Vacation Budget Plan

Spontaneous Activities

There was an episode of Full House where Danny Tanner attempted to script the family’s Hawaiian vacation to the letter — every activity planned ahead of time, strict time limits on said activities, and naturally every penny accounted for.

This almost never happens. Vacations aren’t nearly that organized, and you will have some unpredictable moments, not to mention costs that you didn’t see coming. Maybe your children see an ad for horse riding trails and immediately start begging you to let them ride the horsies.

Sadly, horsies aren’t cheap, but this is a vacation, so why not let them indulge?

The trick is to not indulge too much. Don’t do everything that sounds fun, because the inevitable overdraft charges on your bank account won’t be very fun. Leave enough room in your budget for unplanned, spontaneous activities, and stick to that window as closely as you can.

This way, you and your family will have a great, fun vacation, and you won’t still be paying for it months and months later.

Mint.com can help create a complete vacation budget just for you and your family. Click here to sign up and start!

The post 5 Neglected Expenses That Can Ruin Your Vacation Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

The Financial Truths COVID-19 Has Taught Us

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all some hard lessons. Here are six hard financial truths we’ve learned from 2020.

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!)

The post How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

One question I see time and again is “How much should I spend on groceries for my family of four ?” — or three, five, etc.

When you’re making a household budget, it’s easy to know how much you need to include for most of your living expenses, like utilities, student loans, and even fuel. But when it comes to your average grocery bill, how much should you expect?

As much as I wish there were a simple answer, a family’s grocery budget will be different for every household. There’s no right or wrong number, but finding yours is key to keeping your grocery spending in check.

Here’s a guide to help you figure out how much you should spend on food each month.

Calculator and receipt in shopping cart for grocery budget

WHY YOU NEED A GROCERY BUDGET

It may sound like it should go without saying, but you need a food budget because it will force you to think about money when you’re grocery shopping. After all, your income is a certain amount, and that means you only have a certain amount of money you can spend on food for your family.

The other reason you need a frugal food budget is to make sure you don’t spend too much money for the food your family needs (and to save money by not buying food you don’t need). You become smarter about your spending and think twice before adding impulse purchases to your shopping cart.

HOW MUCH TO BUDGET FOR FOOD

It can be tough to figure out how much you *should* budget for food vs. what you’re currently spending on your meals. There is not a right or a wrong number, but you must find the right amount so you don’t overspend.

Here are some tricks you can try to help you figure out exactly how much to spend on food per month.

Budgeting Hack 1: Use the National Average

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average household spends about 6% of its income on groceries each month. However, the study also shows that the average American also spends 5% of his or her disposable income on dining out. That makes your food budget 11% of your overall income — a significant expense!

If you want to keep things simple and use the national average to calculate your monthly grocery budget, then plan on spending 6% for groceries and an additional 5% for dining out.

Here is an example: If your take-home pay is $3,000 a month, you will budget around $180 for groceries and $150 for dining out. Of course, if $180 won’t cover your needs, then you need to commit to a more thrifty plan: Scale back on eating out and use any additional money toward your grocery needs.

Budgeting Hack 2: Use Your Actual Spending

A more realistic way to figure out how much to budget for groceries is to look at your current grocery spending. An easy way to do this is by completing a spending form.

Here’s how it works. Review all your purchases over several pay periods. You should include food spending, fuel, dining out, entertainment — everything. Having all the numbers in front of you will help you calculate the average of how much you’re spending on groceries (and all your other budget categories!) every week.

If you think your expenses for food add up to too much money, you can try to reduce your spending. Just keep in mind that your family will have to adjust the way you eat.

Budgeting Hack 3: Use a Grocery Calculator

Sometimes, you want to get specific help when figuring out how much to budget for food. There is a simple to use, online grocery budget calculator; you can use it for free.

Fill out the information for all of your family members, then hit calculate. It will return an average you should plan on budgeting for your family.

I ran this report for my family, and the result said we should plan on $219.35 for an average grocery budget for our family of five. That is more than we spend. On average, I spend $125 – $150 per week on everything our family needs.

While using a budget calculator can be helpful, it might end up doing the same thing for you: Suggest an amount that is higher than what you know you spend — or is higher than what you can afford. Use this calculator as a guide, but not the only factor when determining your budget.

Budgeting Hack 4: Look at the U.S. Average

Another way to reach a grocery budget amount is to look at the plans created by the USDA. The most recent plans are on their website. They provide the weekly cost for a thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal plan on a weekly and monthly basis. The amounts are broken down by gender and age. You will need to total the numbers listed for the people in your family.

For example, the average grocery budget for a family of four is about $871, per this report. The amounts will be lower, of course for a family of three or higher if you need to budget for a family of five.

Once again, these numbers should be a guide. Once you start grocery shopping for your family, you may find that you spend much less – or even more – than what the average family spends on groceries.

Don’t Forget Special Dietary Needs

If you have a family member who cannot eat gluten or who has other dietary restrictions, these can affect your budget. Make sure you keep these foods in mind when developing your budget as they can cost much more than average foods or require trips to a specialty grocery store.

TRICKS TO MAKING A MONTHLY FOOD BUDGET

There is no magic formula or grocery budget app that will pull the numbers together for you. The key is to make sure that you put forth the effort in the right manner to make it work for you. Keep the following in mind when figuring your monthly food budget:

1. Consider Your Current Spending

Before you can make any changes, you have to know where you are starting. That way, you can see what you currently spend on your groceries so you can start cutting back.

Need help figuring our your average grocery bill?

You can use the Spending Worksheet and go back to find your spending on food over the past 8 weeks. Look at every transaction in your bank statement and total it. Then, divide that amount by two. You know have an average your family spends on food every month.

The next step is going to be finding a way to not only spend that amount going forward but try to find ways to spend even less if you can.

2. Put It in Writing

The next things you need to when creating your budget for food is to put it in writing. Once written down, you are more willing to commit to the process. Make sure your spouse or partner is also on board so you can work together to ensure you don’t overspend.

3. Start Using Cash

If you really want to stick to a tight budget, you need to use cash. Each payday, get cash from your bank for the amount you’ll need at the grocery store. That is all you have to spend until the next payday. No cheating! That means you can’t whip out your debit card if you run out of money.

You’ll quickly learn better ways to be smart and strategic when figuring your budget and sticking to it. (Read more about how to start using a cash envelope budget ).

4. Commit to Using Your Budget

You can have the greatest intent to use a budget, but if you aren’t ready to do so, it will never work. It is just like dieting. You may know you want to shed pounds, but if you are not willing to put in the effort, the weight will never come off.

Once you know the amount you have to spend at the grocery store, you need to stick to it (this is another reason to use cash). You have to make the conscious decision that you want to budget and then do all you can to make it work.

Your spouse or partner needs to be on board, too. It will never work if one of you is committed to making your grocery budget work and the other is not. Have a long heart to heart talk and make sure you are on the same page.

Read more: How to talk to your spouse about money

GROCERY SHOPPING ON A BUDGET

If you’ve tried all these ideas and still need to save money on groceries, here are some simple tricks you can try.

Reduce Your Dining Out Budget

Stop eating as many restaurant meals. That’s an easy way to find money to add to your grocery shopping budget, especially if this means you’re cutting back on alcohol spending at restaurants.

Use Coupons

While they are not for everyone, coupons are the simplest way to save money on the items you need. Even if coupons aren’t available for the grocery items you need, you can find them for household products you use, like toilet paper and laundry detergent, thereby reducing your spending and increasing the money you can spend on the foods you want.

Stick to Your List

Never shop without a list and only purchase the items on your list. Put in writing or use a grocery list app and don’t be tempted to add extra items to the cart.

Make a Meal Plan

Create a meal plan before you grocery shop. That way, you have a plan for the week not only to know what you will eat but also to make sure the ingredients will be on hand when it’s time for meal prep (reducing those frequent drive-thru meals). Meal planning saves you time, money, and the stress of figuring out “Mom, what’s for dinner?” without resorting to frozen pizza.

Keep a Price Book

Start watching the sales cycles at your grocery store and you’ll learn when it is time to stock up on your pantry staples, so you always pay the lowest price. Keep track of the prices in a price book for every item your family needs. (Bonus: When you get good at identifying your store’s food cost cycles, you can plan a meal or two around the fresh foods on sale in any given week.)

Add a Meatless Meal

One item that can quickly increase your grocery bill is meat. Try having a meal without meat every week (like Meatless Mondays), and you’ll find that you spend less.

Vegetables are cheaper than meat and can be just as filling. Having vegetables for your main course at dinner is not only healthy but can also help with saving money. Try loaded sweet potatoes, pasta with veggie sauce, or cheese and vegetable pizza for a delicious meal.

If veggies are a hard sell for your family, try fruit salads or breakfast for dinner — pancakes and French toast are cheap and fast!

Buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are in-season can help you save even more on your monthly grocery bill. And frozen vegetables and fruit are often cheaper (and tastier) than “fresh” produce that’s not in-season.

  • Pro tip: When you’re buying meat, remember that cuts like chicken thighs are often significantly cheaper than chicken breasts, and they have more flavor. Get more tips on saving money on meat, produce, and dairy products.

There’s an App for That

There are many grocery savings apps that can help you keep tabs on food prices and create a smarter shopping list. What is great about an app is that you always have it with you on your phone, so no worry that you left a coupon at home or in your car.

Steer Clear of Mistakes at the Grocery Store

When you grocery shop, there are temptations around every corner (and I don’t just mean the ice cream and chocolate chip cookies). There are sales on the end caps, fancy signs and different tricks stores use to make you spend more money. Learn about the ways grocery stores get you to spend more money so you can avoid them.

Avoid Haste and Waste

One of the biggest ways people waste money when it comes to food is through waste. People often buy food that goes bad before they get around to eating it.

You might also waste money buying convenience foods. (That frozen meal might seem like a deal when you’re running low on time, but you’ll save more if you prepare big batches of homemade, healthy food and freeze some leftover portions for later.)

These are two ways you are killing your grocery budget. Study your habits and find ways to make changes so you aren’t wasting money on food.

  • Pro tip: One convenience food I occasionally give into is a rotisserie chicken. It’s ready to eat when I get home from the store, and you can use it in a few other meals during the week.

NOW GO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR GROCERIES!

Take the time to create a grocery budget that is both frugal and feasible for your family. Don’t try to make the dollar amount so low that it is unrealistic, or it will fail month after month. But if you pay attention while you’re shopping and keep an eye on how long the food lasts your family, you’ll soon discover that having a realistic grocery budget is the tastiest way to save money!

The post How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

A Guide to Real Estate Counter Offers

realtor in city condo

Unless you’re fresh out of a Negotiating 101 final and ready to huck your textbook straight into the trash, navigating real estate counter offers might not be at the top of your mind.

That’s OK. For most folks, the wild and sometimes-bumpy ride of buying or selling a house isn’t something they’re necessarily prepared for.

homebuying process, unexpected twists and turns can arise. After sifting through hundreds of listings, attending several showings, and putting an offer in on a dream home (or two, or three), the deal can be far from done.

There are many reasons why it takes time to buy a house, and counter offers can certainly be one of them. A real estate counter offer can come into play in these scenarios:

A Change in Sales Price

One of the most commonly contested items in the closing of a house is the sales price. If buyers come in lower than the asking price with their offer, sellers might counter with the original asking price (if they’re unwilling to negotiate) or somewhere between the asking price and the offer.

Requesting a Later Closing Date

Sometimes sellers simply need more time to vacate the premises. Whether they have unfinished business or unexpected plans, they may present a counter offer that extends the escrow period to allow them more time to move out.

Increasing the Earnest Money Deposit

In some cases, the seller could up the ante by increasing the earnest, or “good faith,” money deposit the buyer submits with the offer. Earnest money deposits are typically between 1% and 3% of the purchase price, but in a hot market, there’s a chance the seller could ask for more to ensure the buyer is serious about purchasing the property.

The Removal of Certain Contingencies

Contingency clauses are actions or conditions that must be met before a real estate contract becomes binding. Common contingencies, which most sellers will see as standard in a real estate offer, are:

•   An appraisal contingency to protect buyers if the property is valued lower than the amount they offer.
•   A financing contingency that allows buyers adequate time to obtain a mortgage or other financing to purchase the property.
•   An inspection contingency that ensures buyers have the right to a thorough inspection of the property within a specified period of time.

Some contingencies, however, are considered less than standard. For example, a home sale contingency grants buyers a set amount of time to sell their existing home so they can finance the new property. Some sellers may find this contingency burdensome, particularly in a hot market, so they could make a counter offer that removes the home sale contingency. They can also counter with a “kick-out clause” that gives a real estate agent the right to keep showing the house while buyers attempt to sell their existing home.

Requesting Repairs

If a home inspection reveals necessary repairs or renovations to the property, the buyer could submit a counter offer to negotiate a lower price or ask the seller to complete the repairs before closing.

Deciding Who Covers Closing Costs

In a buyer’s market, it might be possible to negotiate some or all of the closing costs to be paid by the seller. These costs include appraisal fees, settlement fees, title policies, recording fees, land surveys, and transfer tax. Many home buyers are surprised by how expensive closing costs are, but in particularly hot markets with multiple offers, sellers can counter with a simple “no” to indicate they won’t be covering those costs for the buyer.

What’s the Typical Counter Offer Process?

While real estate counter offers vary depending on the market, the seller’s unique circumstances, and other standalone factors, there are some fairly standard parameters to the counter offer process:

What’s a ‘Normal’ Number of Counter Offers?

There’s no legal limit to the number of counter offers that can occur in a real estate transaction. Initial offers, counter offers, and subsequent counter offers could ping pong back and forth for weeks or more.

Knowing the local real estate market can be key here. In a buyer’s market with plenty of houses for sale, sellers might want to be cautious about submitting an unnecessary number of counter offers.

Similarly, in a seller’s market where inventory is low and buyer competition is high, buyers might want to limit the number of counter offers they push back at the seller.

Can a Seller Make Simultaneous Counter Offers?

Depending on the state where the real estate transaction takes place, a seller may or may not be able to make counter offers to more than one buyer. That said, most real estate agents advise against multiple simultaneous counteroffers, as it could end up in two legally binding contracts for the seller.

How Long Does the Process Take?

Number of counter offers aside, home buyers can expect a closing to take 45 days on average. But how long it takes still varies from buyer to buyer, with factors like whether they’re paying cash, how long it takes them to find an inspector, and if the house appraises at a lower value, affecting the overall timeline.

How to Counter Offer in Real Estate

To some degree there’s such a thing as real estate counter offer etiquette. Here are a few things to consider when engaging in the counter offer process:

Having a Comprehensive Picture of Costs

For buyers, having an accurate handle on what it will cost to buy the house is essential for negotiating counter offers discerningly.

mortgage calculator helps buyers break down the cost of purchasing a home.

Going In With a Strong Offer

A “strong” offer is backed by data that defines what’s happening in the market, and research (with the help of an agent) around what’s considered “fair market value.”

Coming in at 15% or more under the fair market value is generally considered a “lowball” offer and can start buyers off on the wrong foot. In some cases, sellers might skip right over anything that isn’t considered a strong offer.

Knowing What Can Be Negotiated

One of the first steps in making a real estate counter offer is knowing what can be negotiated:

•  Possession date. Giving the sellers more time to move out could mean an exchange for a condition the buyer desires. Buyers hoping to move in sooner might make a counter offer requesting an earlier possession date.
•  Personal property. Some of the seller’s personal property like furniture, window treatments, artwork, or gardening tools could be negotiated into the contract in a counter offer.
•  Home warranty. Older houses can come with their own unique sets of systems and appliances, so buyers might make a counter offer asking the sellers to cover the cost of a one- to two-year home warranty ($350 to $600 annually, on average) if unexpected repairs need to be made after move-in.
•  Earnest money deposit. Whether buyers are trying to reduce their risk of something going wrong during closing or strengthen their offer, they can negotiate a lower or higher earnest money deposit with a counter offer.

Being Timely and Responsive

Real estate offers and counter offers often come with a set expiration date, so time is usually of the essence. Forty-eight hours is a standard acceptance window in many real estate markets, but in hot markets offers might expire within 24 hours or less.

Some sellers take this concept to a whole new level, setting stringent requirements around offer acceptance. It’s up to buyers to determine whether or not they’re willing to reply quickly enough to meet the sellers’ time demands or risk losing the deal.

Trying Not to Take Things Personally

It might not feel like “all’s fair in buying and selling a home” since it’s one of the biggest financial transactions many will make in their lifetime. But buyers and sellers shouldn’t be surprised if it comes with a little bit of literal give and take.

And while it might seem like a personal affront to have a real estate offer rejected, it’s possible (and even likely) that the seller has multiple offers or was simply able to strike a better deal.

When push comes to shove and purchase comes to close, buying a house is a matter of business, no matter how personal the home buying journey can feel.

The Takeaway

Real estate counter offers are a common form of business negotiation, and a first step in making a counter offer is knowing what can be negotiated. Being cognizant of counter offer etiquette can be helpful.

Having your home financing lined up can also be helpful. SoFi offers home loans with competitive rates and no hidden fees.

Get pre-qualified for a SoFi home loan in two minutes.



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How to Plan a Budget If Your Home Is a Fixer Upper

When your home is a fixer-upper, it can be difficult to even know where to start with a renovation. The list can be overwhelming—fix the patio, change out the mustard yellow carpet, buy furniture, paint the house. With a never-ending to-do list, planning a budget can seem virtually impossible.

By sorting through your list of wants and needs and focusing on essentials, you can outline a budget that won’t keep you up at night. Here are some tips on how to plan a budget for turning your fixer-upper into your first dream home.

How to Plan a Budget If Your Home is a Fixer Upper

1. Sort through the “wants” and “needs.”

Where do you even start with a renovation budget? With a limited fixer-upper budget, it’s essential to make functionality the first priority. When the roof is leaking and your fridge is dead, this is where the budget begins. First, determine what infrastructure items require repair or an essential upgrade, as these are typically big-ticket items. Next, focus on beautifying projects that will reap benefits in the long run, like bathrooms and kitchens. Hold off on budgeting fancy appliance upgrades and expensive decor if you already have working items—these can come at a later time after you take care of all the essentials.

How to Plan a Budget If Your Home is a Fixer Upper

2. Consider purchasing used over new.

Give your budget more flexibility by going for used over new with certain big-ticket items. Used appliances, for instance, can be found in great condition from other remodels or homeowners upgrading to the latest technology. Used furniture is also a fantastic way to keep your fixer-upper budget low. Don’t forget—sofas, vintage chairs, tables and more can be easily reupholstered and refinished. They’ll look brand new for just a fraction of the cost. 

How to Plan a Budget If Your Home is a Fixer Upper

3. Be ready to DIY with a gift card.

As a first-time buyer, there’s a 99 percent chance you’ll be diving into the realm of DIY. Learning one or many DIY skills will not only come in handy with home repairs in the future, but it’s a fantastic way to keep labor costs low. If you’re worried your DIY supply budget will get out of hand, however, shop with a gift card to your local hardware store. That way, you’ll always be working with a fixed amount of money and won’t be tempted to add on any expensive extras. It’s a guaranteed way to keep your budget in check.

How to Plan a Budget If Your Home is a Fixer Upper

4. Get creative.

Fixer-uppers are great hands-on projects, and creative solutions are key for keeping your budget in line. For items like cabinetry that may be in good condition but out of style, get creative with refinishes to bring new life into your space. Give your kitchen a fresh take by painting cabinets in a modern shade, or reface them for a whole new look without the added cost of all-new cabinetry. Replace hardware on cabinetry, furniture and built-ins to make your pieces feel brand new. Even outdated fireplaces, doors, furniture and windows can go a long way with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware. Consider this cheap alternative to help save room in your budget for the fun stuff.

How to Plan a Budget If Your Home is a Fixer Upper

5. Let the professionals help.

Whether you’re starting with the kitchen or diving into a full-scale remodel, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. No matter what your budget, a professional’s advice can help ensure that your renovation has as few hiccups as possible. City codes, minute details and hidden elements can wreak havoc on projects, so let a master guide you through those hurdles instead of trying to blindly tackle them yourself. Don’t let the potential price tag deter you from investing in having expert guidance—many architects and designers have options for paying an hourly rate. This is a great option, especially for fixer-upper and DIY projects, as it allows your plans to be looked over by professionals without the price tag of a full design scope. 

What are your must haves for your fixer-upper?
 
 
Kerrie Kelly is a California interior designer who has helped many young couples choose their “first-home-together” decor. Kerrie writes on her design experiences for The Home Depot, offering homeowners ways to save money without compromising design.
 

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

9 Ways to Support Small Businesses Without Breaking the Bank

We all have our favorite small businesses, including our go-to date night restaurant and favorite thrift store. These places serve more than great food and looks — they build jobs in the community, put children through school, and are the realization of your neighbor’s dream. 

These stores are built on hard work and love, and supply some of the best quality products you can find. Small businesses are a great sign of a thriving economy, but they’re also the first to suffer from economic downturns, like 2020’s COVID-19 recession. This is why it’s more important than ever to find ways to support your community’s businesses.

There are many reasons why small business success is vital. Not just for the economy but for our communities. That’s why Small Business Saturday (November 28) is one of our favorite times of the year, and why we collected these ways you can support small businesses without breaking the bank (or leaving the house!).

Shop Small Businesses

Shopping small is the easiest way to support community businesses and clear your holiday list. Shopping locally doesn’t have to drain your wallet, either.

Small businesses generate 44% of U.S. economic activity.

1. Skip the Hallmark Card and Support a Local Artist

Cards are a classic gift for any and all celebrations. They’re small, affordable, and easy to personalize. This year skip the grocery store and see what artists you can support while still getting beautiful and unique gifts for your family and friends. 

Most cities will have galleries, boutiques, and even tourist shops that display locally printed and designed cards to choose from. If you don’t have a shop near you, you can browse thousands of creators on Etsy to find the perfect design for each of your loved ones. 

2. Send Gift Cards

Gift cards are perfect for acquaintances, long-distance giving, and little acts of kindness every now and then. Instead of collecting Amazon and Starbucks cards, see what your local spots have to offer. 

Most restaurants and stores offer a gift card option, and you don’t have to waste the plastic! Send your gift via email to anyone, anywhere. So go ahead and thank your first mentor for their glowing reference with a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. 

3. Shop Throughout the Year

It’s true that handmade products can get pricey, but you’re ultimately paying for quality. If you’re already pinching pennies for the holiday season, start thinking about next year. Buying gifts for loved ones as you find them throughout the year is the best way to collect beautiful gifts without using credit. Plus, small businesses can use the boost year-round. 

Show Support From Home

Mockup showing someone fill in an instagram story template with favorite shops.

Download button for instagram story template.

Most of us have a budget that prevents us from buying a new wardrobe every month and eating out every weekday, so it just isn’t feasible to buy from all of our favorite local artisans all of the time. That doesn’t mean you don’t love them, you’ll just have to get creative to show your support from home. 

4. Share Your Favorite Products

When you do buy something new, take a photo! Sharing your favorite finds online and tagging the store is a great way to promote their products and quality to your friends and family. Even if you’re not buying, sharing a wishlist or their newest product could earn them another sale or new followers. 

“I think people forget that their voice has influence, whether they are a huge celebrity or a humble stay at home mom. It’s amazing just what one post can do for small business.” — Autumn Grant, The Kind Poppy

5. Write a Review

You should let the world know when you find a shop you love. From Google and Yelp to a company Facebook page, leave a review to let others know they’re in good hands. Positive reviews are some of the best tools businesses have to convert sales. 

“These types [local] of businesses live and die by word of mouth. Their reviews are everything to them. Now that everyone can look up the average rating of a business or service, it’s vital for businesses to collect positive, honest reviews.” — Dan Bailey, WikiLawn Lawn Care

If you do leave reviews, detailed thoughts and photos perform the best. These give the consumer plenty of information and help your review seem authentic. Plus, reviews can help platforms like Etsy and Google know the business is valued. 

6. Refer a Friend

Tell your friends when you find a new shop or service and share the love. Your friends trust you and likely have a lot of shared interests, so this word of mouth is a great way for businesses to earn customers. 

“A referral is the single best compliment to a business owner. Trust me.” — Brian Robben, Robben Media

If you have friends and family from out of town you may also want to keep your favorite businesses in mind for when they visit. Keep a list of local restaurants, cafes, services, and shops that they can’t get anywhere else and take your friends on a local tour. 

Keep in Touch

Businesses have more ways than ever to keep you in the know, so make sure you’re subscribed to keep in touch! Newsletters and social media are a good way to keep your local faves and their promotional offers top of mind. 

Mockup showing someone filling in their wishlist on instagram.

Download button for holiday wishlist instagram template.

7. Sign-up For Newsletters

Most businesses send regular emails to notify you and other customers of their store details and deals. Newsletters are great ways to find coupons, sales, and new items you’ll adore. Just subscribing isn’t enough, though. Make sure you actually read their news and whitelist the email so you never miss a thing. 

8. Follow and Interact With Their Social Channels

Social media is another easy way to stay in the know; it can also organically promote a business. When you follow a business, platforms learn more about who else may be interested in their offers. Stay active and like and comment on their posts, too, to increase their visibility and trust with other shoppers. 

9. Swing By the Shop

Ultimately, the best way to support a business is to stop by and visit. You never know when something will catch your eye, and it’s a great way to share your find with friends. You may also get the chance to talk with the owner and learn more about the business while sharing your support. 

“Drop a note to them of encouragement. Tell them why you love them and what they mean to you and the community…We’ve been absolutely floored when people have taken time out of their day to write us a note, telling us how much they like us/our product.” — Meaghan Tomas, Pinch Spice Market

No matter the product or service, small business owners will appreciate hearing that you love their shop and can benefit from your support. Tag a friend, buy a gift card, or write a review to help your favorite stores without busting your budget. 
Small Business Administration | G1ve 

The post 9 Ways to Support Small Businesses Without Breaking the Bank appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com