Make bills your bitch. Read More...

Paying bills sucks.

No one likes doing it.

But proper adulting means you need to stay on top of your bills.

Dominate your bills.

Paying your bills on time can help you with your credit, and it ensures that you still have access to things like a place to live, your cell phone service, and electricity.

Your life will suffer if you get caught too far behind. When you don’t pay your bills, you can lose your apartment or house and all the other services you pay for. If you want to make your own decisions and live your life on your terms, you also have to be responsible and handle the business of paying bills.

You don’t have to do it on your own, though. Here are a few ways to help you stay on top of your bills.

1. Make it automatic.

One of my favorite tools is automation.

So many companies will let you automate your bill pay. My cell phone, internet, car loan, and rent payment are all automated. Gym membership, too.

Grocery delivery? Automatically taken care of each week. Same for the delivery from the dairy. Many power company also set up recurring billing. I was even able to set up recurring automatic payments for the medical bills I incurred earlier this year.

Finally, even my charitable donations are automated. That’s right. Not just my bills, but my donation to the local food bank is also automated.

The main pitfall to automation is that you have to stay on top of your bank account.

If the money is coming out of your bank account on a regular, automatic basis, you need to make sure the money is in there and available. Set up your automatic bill payments based on your income and cash flow.

Check due dates to ensure that you’ll have money in your account when the bills come out.

I like to use credit cards for most of my automated payments. This gives me a little breathing space when it comes to paying. I just have to make sure I pay off the credit card in full each month to avoid interest charges.

2. Use ANY personal finance software.

If you aren’t tracking your spending and planning your bills, there’s a good chance you could wind up in trouble. One of the best ways to avoid long-term problems with your finances is to know where the money is going.

Use personal finance software, like Mint or Personal Capital, to track your income and expenses. You can also use it to plan ahead and test out how your bills will impact your cash flow later in the month. Some sort of software is one of the keys to better finances and the ability to dominate your bills.

My personal finance software (Moneydance) allows me to set up reminders and automatic transaction entries so I can look ahead and see what bills are coming up. You can also use your own personal finance software to remind you when bills are due.

Even something like Mint, that syncs with your bank accounts and lets you see what you’ve been spending money on, can be a big help. Get real about where that money is going. Look it in the face. And then see what you need to do to make changes.

3. Check out a calendar app.

There are plenty of calendar apps to set up reminders that can help you dominate your bills.

Google Calendar and iCal from Apple are both good examples. If you do use these apps to pop up reminders for bills, set them to remind you at least 10 days in advance. You want to allow plenty of time for you to make your payment.

Whether you automate, schedule payments ahead of time, or write a check (really, though, who DOES that?), it’s important to look in and make sure everything is squared away.

A little calendar reminder can be just the thing to keep you on top of the situation. I schedule regular times to check my finances. Once a week I do a scan to see that there isn’t anything out of the ordinary with my money.

Later, the last Sunday of the month, I reconcile my accounts, just to stay on top of things. These “dates” with my money are blocked off on my calendar and I get reminders that they are approaching. This keeps me on task, and ensures that I remain connected to my money — even though there’s a lot of automation going on.

4. Designate a specific bill-paying time.

Pick a time of the week or the month to sit down and take care of money matters. This is what I was talking about above. You want to make sure you are consistent in your efforts to stay on top of your money.

I’m to the point where I mostly just check things out once a week. I have a specific time on Sunday (my least busy day) where I look into my accounts to ensure that there are no fraudulent purchases. Then I look at my personal finance software to see what bills are coming up. I verify that they are still on automatic withdrawal and that everything is on point. It takes me about 10 to 15 minutes.

Picking a time to have a sit-down with your money can at least help you pay all the bills due that week. You can also pick a bill-paying day and get everything paid for the whole month. Then you only have to worry about it one time each month, and that can help stay on top of your bills without a great deal of stress.

This only works, though, if you have structured your cash flow so that you have the money for paying everything at once. Or, you can schedule your payments all at once, but spread them out so that they better line up with your income.

No matter what, though, the idea is to figure out when you want to take care of your bills and then creating a standing appointment.

paying-bills

5. Ask for new due dates.

As you track your spending habits, eventually you’ll notice that sometimes it just doesn’t work out with due dates. Your bill due dates may not mesh with when you have money coming in from your job.

If you contact your service providers, you might be able to choose your own due dates. Choose dates that allow you to get money in the bank so it all works out. Many service providers are happy to let you switch if it means they know you’ll be ready to pay on time more often.

That’s #winning right there.

Dominate your bills so they don’t ruin you.

Paying bills is never fun, but it’s part of what you have to do as a proper (or even not-so-proper) adult.

Ugh.

But the good news is that there are plenty of tricks and resources that can help you dominate your bills so that they no longer run your life. You don’t have to live in fear of your due dates. Once you know where you stand, you can make a plan — and maybe even set things up so that you spend maybe an hour a month on your bills.

Get real about the situation, make a plan, change your due dates, and show your bills who’s boss.

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Fall asleep faster — no sheep required. Read More...

It’s that time of night: you’ve counted all the sheep. All that’s left are the lambs that won’t stop crying.

You’ve tossed.

You’ve turned.

You’ve fluffed and flipped, but you haven’t dozed.

Once is bad enough. But night after night? Soon you’ll really know why the lambs are crying.

Sleep shouldn’t be the most stressful time of your day — and it doesn’t have to be.

Check out these 13 recommendations to start getting sleep when you’re in a pattern of not getting sleep.

1. Go yellow.

It’s a very modern problem: today’s technology is all about the blue light. It’ll keep you up like the green light kept up Gatsby.

Blue light is high-energy light, and it’s amazing and serves wonderful purposes, such as increasing alertness, memory, and cognitive function.

As you know, though, those are some of the last effects you want when you can’t fall asleep.

About two hours before bedtime, shift your digital devices to yellow. Windows has the Night Light. Mac has its Night Shift. For phones and tablets, there are f.lux and Iris. These will help your brain calm down with lower energy light — and you can start getting sleep.

2. Go dark.

In our caveman days, the light went out automatically out for us.

Over millennia, humans were conditioned to grow more tired as the sun went lower. Then Edison put a wrench our natural sleep cycle. With modern technology and Netflix’s string of hits, it’s impossible to get to bed some nights.

Let nature work in your favor, sending your brain signals that it’s time to wind down. When the yellow filters start to show on your digital devices, start to turn down and then turn off your lights and television.

As your body adjusts to these signals, you’ll start getting sleep more easily.

3. Get regular.

Yes, that’s important, too. But, for our purposes today, we’re talking about creating a regular pattern of habits before going to bed each night. The right pattern will condition your brain to learn that bedtime is coming.

Here are some of the bedtime habits you can foster to help provide the right cues for your body:

  • Turn off your technology.
  • Start turning down the lights.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Wash your face (or, if you shower at night, take your shower).
  • Drink a warm liquid.
  • Do a little light reading.
  • Stretch.

Figure out a bedtime routine that works for you, and try to stick to a schedule when possible. You might not always get to bed at 10:30 p.m. exactly, but when you time things, you can perhaps get to bed at a range from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and that consistency can help you.

4. Calm yourself.

It’s hard shifting from our fast-paced, constantly connected culture to lights-out.

With all the messages we must process and all the decisions we must make, these can all come flooding back as soon as we put our heads on the pillow.

Any type of meditation that helps you calm down and clear your mind is perfect.

However, Qi Gong meditation is specially designed to help alleviate stresses of all kinds. It’s the perfect meditation to help you forget that important email you read just before leaving work or that minor altercation you had on the highway.

After turning off all distractions, find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. Sit however is most comfortable for you. Then, close your eyes and simply pay attention to your natural breaths. If a thought crosses your mind, no worries. Just push it away.

Or, if you prefer, get comfortable on your bed and meditate yourself to sleep.

5. Write.

The act of putting pencil to paper is calming for two main reasons:

  • First, it’s an organic experience that’s naturally calming.
  • Second, journaling is a reflective process. This means it’s an exercise in self-awareness. You can examine your experiences of the day and put them behind you.

If there’s something important to remember or a problem to solve, writing these down is great for clearing the mind. Once you’ve written down what you must remember, you can forget about it. When you’ve worked out your problem, you can move onto the next task — start getting sleep.

6. Read.

I love to fall asleep while reading in bed.

Don’t get in the habit of staying up long nights in bed reading books from cover to cover like a college student. Instead, crawl under the sheets, put your head on the pillow and read few pages.

Studies show that reading in bed reduces stress levels and beat many other recommendations for falling asleep fast. An entertaining book is a good way to get distracted from what’s keeping you up at night. It’s also a good primer for what dreams may come.

If you can read more than a few pages before falling asleep, your book is either too entertaining or you need to complement your reading with other tips on this list.

7. Talk it out.

Remember how hard it was staying awake in that English Lit class? The professor droned on endlessly like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Yeah, that’s what we mean by getting talkative.

The key with this tip is to finding calming, soothing voices. So, maybe that political radio show isn’t your best choice.

If AM and FM can’t help you, download stories on Audible. If you’re like me, listening to anyone talking when the lights are out is enough to help me fall asleep.

If you can’t find the right story or voice, download the Sleep with Me app. It has over 600 hour-long sessions with people talking about nothing important. Its sole purpose is to bore you to sleep.

Is the Sleep with Me app is more likely to bore you to death than to bore you to sleep? Try the Classic Tales app to have some of history’s best tales read to you to help you fall asleep.

You can even use guided meditations to help in your efforts to start getting sleep.

8. Go white.

If you can’t fall asleep because you hear every bump in the night, go white.

White noise is to sound what white light is to color. White noise is the combination of all the sound frequencies brought together. That means it’s great to use to mask other sounds, like the neighbor’s barking dog or the guy upstairs who won’t stop pacing.

Amazon is replete with white noise machines, many of which are reasonably priced. You can save yourself some money, though, by bringing your old fan down from the attic. A simple desktop fan can have the same effect as any fancy white noise machine. That is, of course, if the fan works properly.

9. Go smooth.

Not unlike white noise, smooth, chill meditation music can put you in the mood to start getting sleep.

If you already have a meditation app on your phone or you have a favorite meditation station on Spotify or iTunes, use it to fall asleep at night.

Meditation music and noises, along with journaling and reading, reduce stress. Likewise, repetitive music helps dozers forget about what’s keeping them up. Music with about 60 beats per minute helps lower a sleeper’s heart rate and can, consequently, help you fall asleep faster.

10. Get sexy.

If getting smooth isn’t doing it for you, get sexy. Just before, during, and after an orgasm, the body releases prolactin, oxytocin, and melatonin. These hormones are a perfect cocktail for fast sleep.

But, sorry ladies! Your bodies don’t release as much prolactin as men’s bodies do, and prolactin helps suppress dopamine, the stimulating hormone. So, this may not be your solution, but it’s fun nonetheless.

And maybe it will help you get just tired enough to drop off to sleep when you’re done.

11. Get warm.

It’s traditional to give their children a glass of warm milk to help them fall asleep.

That’s because milk has the amino acid L-tryptophan, which we associate with the annual sleep-inducing Thanksgiving dinner. But it can help you, too. A warm drink can help you drift off faster.

If you’re lactose intolerant or avoid dairy, try chamomile tea. Chamomile has flavonoids with sedative effects that will help you sleep. It’s commonly advised to drink warm chamomile tea about 90 minutes before bedtime.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol won’t help you start getting sleep. You may fall asleep, but the quality is probably going to be poor if it’s alcohol-induced. Stick with the milk or the tea.

12. Get fit.

Many studies show that regular exercise, over time, can improve one’s ability to have a good night sleep.

Exercise, too, reduces stress, which is a major deterrent to good sleep. It’s also been shown to improve circadian rhythms by making exercisers more alert during the day and then letting them get deeper sleep at night.

So, go for a walk or a bike ride. Hit the gym. Develop a healthy exercise habit, and it could be your ticket to start getting sleep.

13. Get dry.

Constantly going to the bathroom at night keeps some people from ever falling asleep, especially from into a deep sleep. If this is you, then drinking too many liquids at night is not recommended.

Drink enough liquids throughout the day to get your daily dose but slow your drinking after dinner. If you must, limit your liquids after dinner to a single cup of warm milk or tea. Beyond that, you’re asking for frequent interruptions that’ll keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Mix and match to find your combo to start getting sleep.

One of these tips probably isn’t going to solve all of your sleep problems. Instead, try different combinations of these tips to help you fall asleep on time and more deeply.

As you improve your practice, you’ll get better sleep — and you can stop worrying about those damn sheep.

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If you’re struggling financially, is there ever a good way to ask your parents for help? Read More...

The idea of borrowing money from friends or family has always made me feel…gross.

In all honesty, I’d rather be broke than deal with the icky feeling of owing someone money.

There’s something about introducing a financial transaction into a personal relationship that almost always ends up in some sort of discomfort — especially when parents are involved.

One day, you’re the independent, successful adult you struggled so hard to become, proud of your accomplishments and your ability to handle your shit.

The next day, you’re once again that awkward sixteen-year-old begging for gas money. It’s humiliating.

But sometimes asking your parents for financial help is unavoidable. In fact, about half of college students expect their parents to support them financially for up to two years after graduation.

Maybe it’s not so bad to ask your parents for money.

While your first instinct is to cringe at the idea of asking your parents for cash, the reality is that it might not be that bad.

First of all, they’re your parents. They’ve taken care of you, and they probably expect you to eventually be able to return the favor. They’ll always love you and probably be willing to help out.

Plus, they’ve had years to grow their wealth while you’re still getting used to the idea of paying someone for running water. When you combine your need for financial help with the potential to learn from your parents, it doesn’t seem so bad to get a little help and encouragement.

So whether you’re struggling to find post-college employment and need to move back in for a while, or you’re a few thousand dollars shy of owning your first home, here’s how to navigate the tricky conversation of asking for financial help from Mom and Dad:

Decide if you need a gift or a loan.

Before you even broach the subject, determine exactly what it is you’re asking for.

Depending on your mom or dad’s personality, you might be more likely to receive a loan than a handout. If so, figure out exactly how much you need to borrow, how long it will take to repay the loan, and whether or not you will also pay interest.

Many parents like the idea of a loan because you are showing a certain level of responsibility. You don’t just ask your parents for money; you make it clear you’re asking for help and you plan to repay the money. This can be a good strategy.

Many parents won’t even require interest. Or, if they do, they charge 1% or 2% APR. The good news is that there are websites that can help you create these types of agreements with each other.

One app is Frank, which makes it easy to set up loans between friends and family, and manage repayment — all without awkwardness. Sometimes you just need to have that third party (even if it’s not a real person) to provide a bit of a buffer.

On the other hand, you might know very well there’s no way you will be able to pay the money back. In that case, you’re asking your parents for a gift, not a loan.

Instead of making promises you can’t keep, be prepared to state your case as to what, exactly, you need and why your parents should be willing to make the investment.

Which brings us to the next step.

Have a solid case to present.

You might technically be an adult, but in your parents’ eyes, you will always be their child. However, this is not a situation in which you want to be viewed as immature or childish. You need to appear prepared, confident, and accountable.

If you’re going to ask your parents for money as a gift, you need to have an action plan ready to present. Write it down, review it several times, and believe in it. Know the weak points so you can properly address them.

Talk to your parents calmly and explain your situation clearly. Be prepared to negotiate. And above all else, don’t get emotional or attempt to manipulate their emotions.

It. Will. Backfire.

Don’t compromise your parents’ finances.

How to Ask Your Parents for Money

Some parents are willing to sacrifice everything to help out their kids, no questions asked. Others prefer to send their children to the School of Hard Knocks, even if they have to repeat a few grades.

If your parents are more like the former, be especially sensitive to how your request for financial assistance will impact their well-being.

Will Mom have to dip into her 401(k) to cover your student loan debt? Is Dad planning to work a few more years so you can get back on your feet? Be real about the impact you will have on their lives. They’ve already given you so much. Should they be sacrificing so you can be a digital nomad or get an expensive graduate degree?

It’s one thing to ask for $1,000 to help you cover unexpected car repairs. It’s quite another to ask for $15,000 to pay off the last of your student debt.

Ask yourself if you’re really okay with being the person who jeopardizes your parents’ golden years after they’ve worked so hard — for decades — to reach them.

Yeah, didn’t think so.

Should you even do it?

Turning to the Bank of Mom and Dad can be tempting when you’re seriously short on cash. But there’s a host of potential landmines when you ask for money from the people who used to change your diapers.

First, ask yourself if this is going to cause problems with boundaries you’ve been trying to enforce. It’s hard to make demands of your parents if you keep turning to them for financial help.

Consider whether you’re looking to your parents for financial support because it seems easy or because that’s really your only option.

You’re a grownass adult, so if you have the ability to do a little extra work to solve the problem yourself, try that before you ask your parents for money.

There’s nothing wrong with getting help from Mom and Dad if they’re willing and you’re in a tight spot. You shouldn’t take advantage, though.

It’s almost always best to suck it up and figure it out on your own if you can. After all, they’ve already made the biggest investment in you anyone ever will. They raised you.

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Get that paper. Read More...

It’s often said (most notably by Dave Ramsey) that you need at least $1,000 saved for emergencies.

In my experience, this is often been the case.

Like when my car finally gave up the ghost and some random belt in it broke. Cost for the repair: $1,300. And, yes, I plan on paying it.

But I don’t have to like it.

What about when my neighbors and I had to replace our roof? Deductible: $1,000.

I’m not the only one, either. A relative of mine needed to get some major dental work done and they had to pay $1,000 towards their deductible.

You need at least an extra $1,000 cash at all times. And, fortunately, it’s not too hard to do once you decide it’s time to get that emergency fund built. (Although there are some circumstances in which it might be impossible for you to reach this goal right now.)

For simplicity’s sake, though, we’re going to assume that most things are going well in your life and that you just would like to make an extra grand for whatever reason.  

An extra $1,000 in a month: set the goal.

It’s amazing how often people underestimate the value of setting goals. Each goal has an energy and a process of its own.

You decide on the goal, then you break it down into workable parts. The idea is to make it manageable over time. It’s not something that you just accomplish immediately. However, having that goal — something to work for — can help you stay motivated and give you focus.

Some people start with the end result in mind and then work backward. This is a great approach that works for many people. By figuring out what the result should be, they can then put together a plan with steps to help them reach those goals.

Personally, I find that a bit confusing. I prefer to work from the beginning towards my end result. When focusing on financial goals like getting an extra $1,000 in your pocket each month there are a couple of things to consider.

First, ask yourself: Could you achieve this goal by changing your job?

Finding a new job may take longer, but once you find a job that meets your “earn more” criteria you’re all set. Nothing more needs to be done. 

What if you love your job and just would like to side-hustle your way to an extra grand each month? Or what if it’s just not practical to get a new job? Maybe you just want the extra money so you can work on financial independence.

If these situations apply, you need to take different steps to achieve your goal.

Decide on your “how.”

You’ve created your goal and now you need to decide how you’re going to make your extra $1,000 per month.

If you’re side hustling, you may end up going down a rabbit hole of choices.

There are a ridiculous number of ways to make money. The most important consideration to keep in mind is the following: you should avoid paying money to make extra money whenever possible.

Next, do your best to enjoy whatever hustle you add to your week.

One of my favorite side hustles is brand ambassador work. I have a friend who runs a team of brand ambassadors for a local brand here in Colorado. The best part about working on her team is that once we’ve run out of whatever product we are tasked with sampling, we’re still paid for the entire shift.

There are times I’m scheduled for a four-hour shift and the work is done in one hour. And I get paid for the remaining three hours. Nice.

But that’s not the only side hustle you can use to get an extra $1,000 a month. Think about what you enjoy. Whether it’s selling stuff on Etsy, driving for Lyft, or pet sitting, think about what you might enjoy that others are willing to pay for. From writing to taking pictures, there are plenty of amazing side gigs that can help you grow your wealth.

For some inspiration to get you started, here are our suggestions on how to Make $200 a Day with These 57 Side Hustle Ideas.

Daily focus.

What are the tasks that you need to focus on each day to attract more money to you?

The way you approach your gigs and your life can make a huge difference in getting that extra $1,000. 

For example, if you’re interested in brand ambassador work and live in a mid- to large-sized city, the best time to start signing up for these gigs is during the months May through October. Each product activation varies by length of time, but typically these gigs last most of the summer months.

On top of that, if you are interested in attending events for free and getting paid, the summer months are ideal for making a little extra money. Event season starts to ramp up — and events need people to work them.

Wedding season is also in full swing during the summer and a well run wedding needs help. You can also pick up clients if you’re a freelance photographer or videographer. It’s a fun side gig and you see people and families at the happiest.

It’s not just about working toward side gigs during the summer, though. Tap into your network.

Maybe you need to tell people every few days that you’re looking to make some extra cash. Share on social media that you’re available to help people by using your talents.

In fact, I just had a friend reach out to me this week who needs help running an event at the school her kids attend. I would have helped for free (she’s a friend) but she also mentioned that they were paying and feeding people. Done.

Time vs. income.

Not all side hustles are created equal, though.

The most sought-after side hustles make a lot of money in as short an amount of time as possible.

There is a reason why people love freelance writing. If you’re a reasonably fast writer and editor you could potentially write for a couple of clients a month and easily make that extra $1,000.

A lot of bloggers focus on creating passive income with this metric in mind. It takes a lot of work in the beginning, but, once you begin making a steady passive income stream, pretty soon that income has its own little money babies.

But you have to be careful. Are you using your time productively? For example, rideshare driving can be a solid way to earn money. But is it worth it to spend five hours driving around (not to mention paying for the cost of gas) only to end up with three fares, making $35. That’s less than $6 an hour.

Carefully pay attention to your return on investment with your time. You don’t want to spend a ton of time on something that doesn’t end up providing you with a good return. Try a few things. But if it turns out to be a dud, you might have to abandon the idea and move on to something else.

Don’t be afraid to try new things to make extra money. But also don’t be afraid to pivot when needed.

Trim the Fat.

You may already have an extra $1,000 in your budget and not even know it.

What if you just need to focus on your spending and monthly expenses?

I cut $13,500 from my annual budget by focusing on my monthly expenditures. I changed my phone service, cut down on clothes shopping, tracked my daily spending, and stopped shopping for groceries like a fool. By taking these steps I averaged a savings of $1125 a month.

While some folks really are already down to the bone, the fact is that many of us might be surprised to really look at our finances and see there’s room to cut back. Be honest as you go through your costs and be ruthless as you cut back on things that aren’t helping you reach your goals.

Replace some of your pricey activities with free or low-cost fun. Look for discounts and free samples on your favorite products. If you can spend a few minutes each week to save some money on your spending, you can enjoy life that much more — and get to your goal much faster.

Start today.

It may feel a little overwhelming to save an extra $1,000 if you’re not in the habit of aggressively saving money.

And, let’s face it, most Americans struggle with building up their savings.

Don’t get stressed out, though. Just start. Maybe you make $200 or $500 extra this month, instead of $1,000. That’s ok. It’s $200 or $500 more than you had the month before.

Start today. Do one thing to help grow your wealth today. Get started. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

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Screw the huge salary and 80-hour workweeks. Do your benefits help you actually LIVE your life? Read More...

When you start a new job — including your first job — salary seems like the most important issue.

Making money is important.

We all enjoy eating and most of us like to have a little fun, too.

But it’s not just about the salary or the hourly wage. When my now-ex-husband got his first real job after, I was shocked, shocked, at how much easier life became with the addition of benefits.

For years, we’d been without benefits, with me cobbling together a “package” using IRAs, individual health insurance, and other financial accounts and tools. And then that glorious time came.

The time of benefits.

Health insurance is your BFF.

The biggest bonus was health insurance. We’d been paying for private health insurance for a decade, using my earnings as a freelancer to pay for everything. Every year, as has been the case for decades, prices went up. That’s the nature of health insurance. And for families and individuals without health benefits, it can be almost unmanageable.

With my ex’s employer subsidizing our coverage, our premium was cut in half, and we had a better plan. That was money in our pockets — on top of the fact that he was making more money.

I swear, one of the biggest disappointments of the divorce was the prospect of going back to being entirely responsible for my own health insurance.

Luckily, accepting a remote job with Student Loan Hero a year after the divorce helped the situation. I now work for a company that pays my entire health insurance premium. It’s a huge load off my budget and my mind.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have an employer who pays the whole premium. However, your employer might be paying as much as 68% of your premium if you have health benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are paying $250 per month for your health benefits, there’s a good chance they cost as much as $368. That’s a savings of $118 a month. It’s like making an extra $1,416 a year.

Paid vacation days are totes amazing.

Get paid even while you aren’t at work? Yes, please!

If you can negotiate a package that allows you to take vacation days and still get paid for them, you are doing something right. It might be worth it to accept a little less in terms of salary if you don’t have to worry how you’ll make up the money for the days you missed to attend SXSW.

Many companies offer 14 days a year of paid vacation. Others might offer a little less or a little more. Check into how much paid vacation you get and see if you can negotiate a little more to make up for a slightly lower salary.

Even if you don’t get paid vacation days, some companies are willing to offer extra personal days (although you won’t get paid for these).

If you could take extra time off to live life, would you take it even if you aren’t getting paid? I would.

Just being able to take that time can be a huge relief. And, if you get into a side hustle, you can use some of that time off to potentially make money doing something you like more.

Don’t discount time off — paid or unpaid — when it comes to your job.

Nothing beats flexibility.

Money Isn't Everything: Are Your Benefits On Fleek?

There is nothing — nothing — I value more than freedom and flexibility. Increasingly, companies are offering benefits that include flexible work schedules.

Thanks to technology, a number of jobs now come with location independence, and there are some companies that allow completely remote workers. I work for one of those companies myself. It’s an amazing perk that can be almost as valuable as another $10,000 a year.

Even if you don’t get to work in your jammies or from the coffee shop every day, you might be able to negotiate telecommuting privileges for two or three days a week or customize your schedule to come in earlier or later in the day. Being able to manage your schedule around your life is a big plus.

I have a friend who is willing to accept a little less in terms of salary because his employer allows him to work three 12-hour days a week. That means that he has four days off each week, and is still considered full-time and enjoys health benefits. That level of flexibility is worth $7,000 a year to him.

Is there a way for you to get some sort of concession like that? Maybe it’s coming in from 10 am to 6 pm. Or maybe it’s going in at 7:00 am to be done at 3 pm. Perhaps you just want a two-hour lunch break so you can go to the gym in the middle of the day, or meet your friends.

No matter what it is, the ability to boost your quality of life makes a huge difference in your job satisfaction and performance.

How fierce is your retirement plan?

No matter how much money you make, investing can help you prepare for the future.

The easiest way to invest is through your company’s retirement plan. Your money is automatically withheld from your paycheck and invested for the future.

And if your company’s plan is truly fierce, you’ll get an employer match. That’s free money that goes toward your future, building your retirement portfolio. It’s hard to beat that.

Companies that offer good retirement plan benefits can get a leg up in attracting talented workers. And you benefit as well. So what if you don’t get another $9,000 a year? The reality is that the value of a retirement plan with an employer match is worth way more than that. The free money that goes into your account and grows through the magic of compound returns ends up being worth waaaaay more than that in the long run.

Other epic benefits.

Companies are interested in attracting the best and the brightest, and if that’s you, there are plenty of other epic benefits that you might be able to enjoy at the right company — and that might be worth more than mere money:

  • On-site fitness center or a paid membership to a local gym
  • Meals in a cafeteria that serves actual food
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Student loan repayment help
  • Career development and training resources
  • Equipment, such as a smartphone or a laptop
  • Attractive and diverse workspaces (including open offices, standing desks, and other innovative perks)

There are a number of companies willing to offer high-end perks, ranging from concerts to concierge services.

So, while you might not get a huge salary, you might end up with a better quality of life. What’s the point of having a big salary if you end up working 60 to 70 hours a week and you don’t have any time to enjoy the money?

The reality of salary vs. benefits.

Before you get hung up salary, think of your preferred lifestyle. Your life is going to such if you work 80 hours a week with no time for true enjoyment.

You might have a lot of money, but are you enjoying life now?

There’s more to life than work. There’s more to life than having a lot of money. We often see money as a status symbol, but does it help you live better? Will it help you develop more meaningful relationships?

When you think of your compensation package holistically, including the value of the benefits and the kind of life you can live, things change.

The right benefits can be worth more than a few thousand extra dollars per year.

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Always coming up short when you’re out. Never paying their fair share. What do you do when you’re always covering? Read More...

We’ve all had that friend. You know the one.

When the dinner bill comes, they severely underestimate their share (let alone account for tax and tip). You spot them $10 here and $20 there — and they always “forget” to pay you back.

But you let it slide every time. After all, what’s a few bucks among good friends?

That used to be your attitude.

Lately, your desire for a person’s company has a perfect negative correlation to how much of their crap you are required to put up with. You are, in fact, too old for this shit.

You’d like to stay friends with your broke friend, but it seems like an almost impossible task. If you want to maintain the friendship, it will take a little work. And maybe a couple of drastic measures.

Here’s how to deal with that friend who makes you feel more like a bank than their buddy — without killing the relationship.

Be honest.

The great thing about friends (real friends — not the people you pretend to like out of various social obligations) is that you can tell them the truth and they’ll still be your friend. A true friend gets that sometimes you say and do things out of tough love.

You’re not doing anyone any favors by pretending your pal’s poor money etiquette doesn’t bother you. Besides, leaving those feelings festering just creates an uncomfortable situation for everyone. Your friends can sense your displeasure.

So the next time they leave you hanging with the bill, be up front and tell them how much they owe right then and there. Clear the air.

Add that you’re pretty strapped for cash as well and can’t afford to cover them. Consistently push back rather than ignore the behavior. Eventually, they’ll get it and stop mooching all the time.

And if this honesty does cause a rift in your relationship, it’s probably time to reevaluate whether you two shared a real friendship at all. No one likes being the ATM all the time.

Find cheap or free things to do.

A novel idea, right?

As much as you’re annoyed by your pal’s perpetual brokeness, they likely feel pressured to keep up with the group financially, too. After all, if your group is always going out, the FOMO is real for you — and for your annoying broke friend.

That’s a tough spot to be in. As a friend, though, you can be part of the solution. Find ways to spend quality time together that don’t force your buddy into yet another awkward situation. There’s no reason to hit the clubs every weekend or go out to expensive restaurants.

Besides, one of the best things about friends is that all you really need is each other’s company to have an awesome time.

Check your local weekly for low-cost and free events such as concerts, art exhibits, and movie screenings. Have a picnic at the beach (or in the park). Go for a hike. Get dressed up, pretend you’re rich, and hop from one open house to the next while eating all their snacks along the way.

Or, just have a chill evening at home, playing games and laughing.

No matter what you do, the important thing is that you have fun together — without spending a ton of money. Once you start getting creative about these types of activities, it’s easy to have a good time without breaking the bank.

Consider it a gift.

That Annoying Broke Friend

When your friend does ask for money, and you feel comfortable parting with the cash, treat it as a gift.

Loaning money turns a personal relationship into one of business, which opens the door for guilt and resentment on both sides — especially if the borrower isn’t able to pay up.

When you loan money, things get weird. Often, it’s better to just consider it a gift. Or, take turns paying for each other. However, if your broke friend can’t (or won’t) take a rightful turn, that can get just as ugly. When you give money to someone you are pretty sure won’t pay you back, just think of it as money gone and move on.

Bottom line.

It’s your choice whether or not you want to support your friend financially — and it’s perfectly fine if you do.

Keep in mind, however, that you can’t expect things to change if you continue to enable the situation. If your friend starts to rely on you, and the situation suddenly changes, you could be doing your friend a huge disservice. It’s vital to think through the implications.

Friendship is something that only becomes more precious as you grow older. As you watch your time with friends dwindle, you might worry that soon there will be no one left. As a result, it can be tempting to over-compromise in order to avoid conflict.

But true friendship is also built on honesty and desire to make each other happy. It’s a relationship that involves give and take. If you’re always the giver, it can get old fast. So don’t be afraid to share your feelings in a caring but straightforward manner if things are becoming unbearable.

Besides, you also have to think of your own money situation. At some point, you need to stop sacrificing your own well-being on behalf of someone who offers nothing in return. If your own financial goals are jeopardized in order to keep the peace between you and a broke friend, that friendship probably isn’t worth it in the first place.

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Look your best — for less! Read More...

If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve had an existential crisis while cleaning out your bathroom cabinet or toiletry closet.

As you sort through individual makeup and skincare items, you start tallying up how much each one costs. Soon you find yourself well into the triple digits — and vow to never buy beauty products again.

It’s a vicious cycle, made all the more difficult by societal pressure to always look your best. If you work in a highly social or competitive field, taking a day off your beauty routine just isn’t an option. It would be like a man showing up to a traditional office job in shorts and a tank top.

Being a woman can be expensive, but it’s possible to maintain a flawless beauty regimen without breaking the bank.

The key is finding ways to cut corners, find suitable replacements and locate the best deals. Here are my best low-cost beauty tips:

Shop in unexpected places.

If you’re used to buying beauty products at Sephora or your closest drugstore, prepare to have your world turned upside down.

I love buying my skincare goodies at…Costco.

Yep, that’s right. The bulk superstore carries my favorite CeraVe body lotion and face wash — at a better price than anywhere else I’ve seen. You can also find razors, vitamins, and contact solution for great deals. Your biggest problem will be finding the storage space for all your items.

Plus, Costco has a great return policy. If you try a new lip balm and hate it, you can always bring it back with the receipt — no questions asked.

Yes, you have to pay an annual fee to join Costco. But the reality is that the money you save on low-cost beauty and personal products more than makes up for that fee.

I’ve also bought hair, makeup, and skincare products at TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack, where you can find high-end shampoo and conditioner for 50% off the retail listing. I buy my 33 oz. Redken and Joico products at Nordstrom Rack where they cost $15 each — instead of buying them at a salon or other retailer for $25 to $35 a bottle.

Try the places I mentioned, but you can also ask friends and look around for your own secret spots. Maybe there’s a bulk beauty supply store in town. Perhaps a friend can get you a special deal. You might be surprised where you can find reputable products for a drastic markdown.

Sample products beforehand.

How often do you hear about a great face scrub or eyeliner and buy it? Only to find out that it gives you a bad reaction or ends up running all over your face?

That’s why I sample products before purchasing. It’s one of the best low-cost beauty tips I can give you. Even though many stores do have a return policy if you’re unhappy with a product, it’s easier (and less wasteful) to sample beauty products before you buy them.

It’s also important to keep in mind that some retailers won’t take something back if it’s been opened. Even if you have a bad reaction, you might not be able to bring it back (unless you got it at Costco). Some stores like Ulta are stingy about returns and can deny your claim, even if you have a good reason.

Before you get too far, though, it’s just better to take a step back and make sure you’re getting what works for you.

Department stores and specialty beauty shops usually let you try products with no problem. This can save you the time and money you’d spend buying something and returning it later. In fact, one thing to try is to give something a try at the Macy’s or Sephora counter, and then see if you can find the same thing elsewhere — for much less.

Find duplicates of your favorite products.

If you’re like me, you have certain things you just love. And that’s great. But what if the thing you love is just so expensive? What if you have a favorite lipstick that you can’t bear to let go — but you also can’t justify the $25 price tag?

Find its doppelganger. That’s right. This is the low-cost beauty tips version of shopping generic. It works when you shop for groceries, and it will work as you figure out which beauty products to use.

There are countless beauty bloggers like Temptalia who do the work of comparing drugstore brands to high-end versions to see where you can save money.

Sometimes the more expensive item really is better quality. More often, though, you can find a suitable counterpart that costs a lot less. And that counterpart probably won’t be noticed by anyone else. It does the job, helps you look amazing, and costs much, much less.

When I was really struggling financially, I visited Temptalia all the time to find drugstore versions of my favorite high-end products. Even now that I earn a decent living, I still use many of those products instead of their expensive alternatives.

True story: if you want more money to travel, or enjoy other things in your life, saving money on beauty and skincare products is one of the best ways to go. Simply by saving 50% a year on beauty, makeup, and skincare items, it’s possible for me to fund at least one weekend getaway (and sometimes two).

Do your research.

I’m meticulous when it comes to shopping for new beauty products. I’ll ask my friends, read reviews online (MakeupAlley is my favorite), and look at photos in Google’s image search. I also like searching through Reddit forums Skincareaddiction and Makeupaddiction.

This probably sounds like a lot of work, but I rarely buy makeup or skincare products that are new to me. If I like something, I’ll keep using it until it stops working or gets discontinued. And that’s why putting in the time to do the research is one of the best low-cost beauty tips. A little time now can go a long way later.

By doing my research thoroughly, I’m more likely to be satisfied whenever I make my next purchase. I try not to get lured in by deceptive online advertising, and I’m not a brand snob. I don’t mind buying a $5 eyeshadow palette from Wet ‘n Wild if the reviews are good — and if it looks great on me.

There’s no reason to spend $50 on something when the $5 version works just as well. By doing plenty of legwork, I’m more likely to find a frugal option that suits my needs. And, of course, once you find that low-cost beauty version that works for you, you can keep buying it at a discount.  The upfront investment of time yields dividends for years to come.

If you’re reading this article, you’re already on the right path.

Use it up.

I’m the type of person who will buy five different products for the same problem. If I have a pimple, I won’t hesitate to buy a new acne cream — even if I already have three in my medicine cabinet. This is an area where my frugality is severely lacking.

And that problem means that I spend more money — and waste more product — than I need to.

Instead of buying a new product whenever you feel like it, try to use up what you already have. Most skincare and beauty products have an expiration date, so many can go bad if they’re just sitting in your drawer. Also, if you use a product consistently for a significant period of time, you’ll have a better idea if it actually works for you.

Before rushing out to buy something new, use what you already have. Whether it’s overnight face cream, a serum, or a tube of lipstick, make sure that you are completely using up what you already have.

I’m trying to get better about this, and you should too.

Treat your body right.

This sounds like a given, but simply having a healthy lifestyle will negate the need for many products. That’s right: one of the best low-cost beauty tips is to just take care of yourself by engaging in healthy habits.

When I sleep well, I can skip using concealer. Think about it: good sleep leads to fewer dark circles. Being well-rested can also boost your mood — which in terms means fewer frowns and the lines that come with them.

When I drink enough water, my face is more dewy. Remaining hydrated can help you maintain smooth skin and help in other areas. Drinking enough water can reduce your need for some skin care products. If you get enough sleep and drink a lot of water, you might not need serums. Or maybe you won’t need to use as much moisturizer or toner.

On top of that, some researchers claim that a poor diet can cause outbreaks and other skin problems. When you eat healthily, your body gets the nutrients it needs to look its best. Foods with antioxidants can help as well. Reduce the amount of processed foods you eat and limit the sweets. Replace the junk food with healthier choices. You don’t have to never eat junk food again, but be realistic about how much you consume — and cut back on it.

If you binge drink regularly or smoke cigarettes, consider cutting back —both for your health and for your appearance. You might be surprised at how many years hard drinking and smoking can add to your life (and your looks).

Finally, adding exercise to your life can help you reduce the need for beauty products. Exercising gives you a healthy glow overall. It also promotes circulation, which helps get nutrients cycling through your body. Maintaining flexibility and health can help you feel less stress, and that means a better look overall.

It takes time to change these habits, but by slowing changing your lifestyle can reduce the amount of time and money you spend on your beauty regimen.

Wait for sales and coupons.

I get a lot of my makeup at Sephora nowadays, which is one of the most expensive places to buy skincare products. One trip to Sephora can be totally brutal on your pocketbook.

To save money, I try to wait until April and November when the store has their semi-annual sale. I know that I’ll be able to save money during these time periods and my expensive care products will suddenly be less expensive.

Ulta also has sales around the holidays for their high-end products. Understanding these cycles can help you plan your purchases throughout the year. It’s not something that just works for best beauty tips, either. It can work when you’re buying food, clothes, and other items. When you know what to expect, you can plan ahead and save money in the long run.

On top of seasonal sales, you can find weekly coupons for drugstore brands. These types of deals can help you out on a regular basis. First of all, you’re already spending less by choosing these stores. Then, you save even more because of coupons and sales.

Stores like Target often have sales in the makeup and beauty departments, so look at the weekly ad before you shop.

If I’m shopping online, I use the browser extension Ebates to get cash-back on my purchases. You can also use an extension from a site like Swagbucks to turn your purchases into gift cards for stores you prefer.

Another strategy to save money on beauty supplies is to buy a discounted gift card from CardPool or Gift Card Granny to save even more. These types of sites allow you to buy gift cards at less than face value and then spend them at your favorite store. Consider: get a Sephora gift card at a discount and then use it during a sale. Use it online and you could see even bigger savings as you stack strategies and discounts.

Skip the subscription boxes.

I’ll never forget when I got my first beauty subscription box. My friend Danielle had been raving about how they had introduced her to seriously life-changing products, so I decided to give it a go.

I signed up for Ipsy, which costs $10 a month and promises at least five products along with a custom-designed pouch. I filled out the Ipsy questionnaire, which asked what kind of products I wanted and what my biggest skincare and makeup concerns were. My first package arrived a few weeks later in a hot pink envelope.

I eagerly tore into it — and was instantly disappointed.

Inside, I found gold eyeliner, scented lip balm, hair oil, blush, and a purple eyeshadow. I sampled all those products, but in the end, I only really liked the blush. Had I accidentally said on my questionnaire that I wanted to try bold colors like purple eyeshadow and gold eyeliner? Didn’t I tell Ipsy I was looking for a “natural” look?

I got one more package before I canceled my subscription. Even now when I hear my friends rave about a beauty box, I ignore them. Beauty boxes are fun, but since you can’t return the products you don’t like, they can often be a huge money sink. Plus, if you don’t like and use the products, you still have to go out and find what you do like.

I recommend skipping them and trying products in person at Sephora, where you can sample for free. And, if you like the idea of getting beauty products regularly, check to see if what you like is available through programs like Amazon’s Subscribe & Save. You set it and forget it — and it comes each month, no problem.

Sign up for the rewards program.

I love shopping at Sephora for many reasons, but I especially love their rewards program. If you’re a Sephora Beauty Insider, you earn one point for each dollar you spend. You can redeem points for trial sizes of popular products.

This is a good way to test products and even get solid mileage out of them before paying full price. I usually save my points until I find something I really need, like a cleanser I can take with me on a flight or a 3 oz bottle of hairspray. You even get a free item on your birthday. I’ve gotten Tarte blush, Philosophy body wash, and Fresh soy cleanser.

Ulta also has a rewards program which lets you redeem points for coupons on your purchases. If you spend more than $450 a year, you’ll earn more points every time you shop.

This strategy works best with brand loyalty, though. And it can still cost you. If you really want to keep it to low-cost beauty tips, steer clear of the loyalty to stores and brands and get what’s cheapest that works well for you.

Swap with friends.

If you’re like most women, you probably have some makeup or skincare items you bought, tried once, and didn’t return. They probably sit in the back of your closet where you eventually forget about them entirely.

Try to swap those long-forgotten products with your loved ones and acquaintances. One of my good friends got a concealer sample from Ipsy that was far too light for her complexion, so she gave it to me. It ended up becoming the best concealer I’ve ever used. My mom and I often swap products with each other since we have a similar skin tone.

You can even set up a fun swap party where everyone has to bring gently used items they no longer need. This is a great way to clean out your medicine cabinet and get more product without wasting items or spending a lot of money.

Decide when to splurge.

The makeup and skincare products in my cabinet vary between drugstore and high-end. My goal is to buy the best product I can that also fits my budget. Sometimes, I get lucky and find something at Target that works. Other times, I have to go to Sephora.

I splurge on my foundation, eyeliner, and acne products. I’ve found that my $40 foundation looks better and lasts longer than the Maybelline one I had before. I also know that my $8 Aquaphor ointment works better than anything I could find at the mall — just like my $15 CeraVe cleanser. For lipstick, I try to buy Sephora-level products, although I can usually find decent doppelgangers at drug stores.

Sometimes the most expensive products work no better than their cheaper counterparts — or if they do, the quality is negligible. Saving money is almost always about making sacrifices, so just decide where you want to draw the line.

Keep your routine simple.

I’ve always envied women who could contour, applying foundation and concealer like an artist. I’d love to create the illusion of cheekbones, but I could never master the technique. Or, rather, I never took the time to practice the technique long enough to become good at it.

Instead, my routine is simple. Foundation, concealer, blush, eyeliner, mascara, and — on special occasions — eyeshadow. By keeping my normal routine simple, I negate the need for extra products like a highlighter, bronzer or setting powder. Plus, it takes me less than 10 minutes to put it all together.

My skincare strategy has grown more complex as I’ve added anti-aging serums and lotions to the mix, but I try to keep things as simple as I can while still meeting my needs. Overall, I try to avoid buying a new type of product unless I’m sure I need it — and will actually use it. The fewer products you need, the less you’ll have to buy. And the more money you’ll save.

The same goes for your hair. If you don’t dye your hair, there’s no need to worry about paying for touch-ups or special shampoo. No matter what part of you you’re trying to enhance, the simpler your routine, the more money you save. Along with adopting healthy habits, keeping it simple is among the best low-cost beauty tips.

Compare bottles fairly.

If you’ve ever tried to downsize your grocery bill, you know the need to compare prices per ounce to get the best deal. Smaller bottles are typically more expensive per-unit, so it’s usually cheaper to buy the larger size.

Beauty products are the same. The smaller the bottle, the more it costs. What’s also annoying is that one bottle of foundation might be 1.5 ounces, while another is 1.9 — and unlike your local grocery store, Sephora won’t list the cost per ounce on the label. If you can’t decide between two similar products, do the math before you buy to make the best decision.

Remember that the price-per-unit on most products will scale down as the size scales up, but that’s not always the case. That’s why it’s so important to do the math yourself (use the calculator on your smartphone), so you’re not stuck with a huge tub of lotion that actually costs more than the regular size.

Save hundreds a year with these low-cost beauty tips.

By combining these low-cost beauty tips, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars a year. Plus, you’ll look and feel like a better, more natural you.

What are your favorite beauty products and tips? Let us know by joining the #AdultingHALP Facebook group.

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If you can handle a credit card like an adult, you might as well maximize the benefits! These best credit cards offer bonuses and other perks. Read More...

Updated for February 2018! Handling your finances like an adult includes knowing how to deal with credit cards. We all make mistakes sometimes. For me, it was taking a cash advance from a credit card when I hit my personal rock bottom. I felt like I didn’t have any other choice.

But years later, I’ve turned the tables on the credit card industry and now use credit cards to earn cash back and collect points for free travel, which I do often.

Here are my picks for the best credit cards across the different types of credit card offers that are available today. Note: all credit card deals are only worthwhile if you pay your balance off in full each month, like a proper adult. If you have to pay interest or a late payment fee, forget about maximizing credit card offers. Focus on getting your finances in shape first.

Best credit card bonus (for the not-so-typical adult).

Chase Sapphire Reserve 50,000 Bonus Points. Unfortunately, Chase has ended its 100,000 bonus points offer that was available when applying from within a Chase branch. What Chase offers now is the reduced bonus point offer of 50,000 points, for which you can still apply online. That’s still pretty substantial. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, not waived the first year, but you will receive a reimbursement of up to $300 for certain travel expenses like checked-bag fees.

The rest of the benefits may be worth the $150 difference between the reimbursement maximum and the fee. You’ll need to spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months to receive the bonus. Get the 50,000 bonus points and you’re straight fire.

Best cash back credit card offer (for adults who like money).

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express. The keys to a good cash back card are avoiding the annual fee, eliminating any hassle to retrieving the cash you earn, and finding a cash-back rate that’s above the average offer. 1% cash back is easy to find, but Blue Cash Everyday beats that with 3% cash back on groceries (limited), 2% at gas stations and certain department stores, and 1% on everything else.

There is currently a bonus offer, too. Apply now to earn $200 in cash back after spending $1,000 within the first three months.

Best travel rewards credit card offer (for adults who have places to be).

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card. If you’re looking for a travel rewards credit card, you should expect to find features that make travel easy. The biggest benefit, especially for the world traveler, is having no foreign transaction fee. Bank of America’s offer makes that happen, and does not charge an annual fee, either.

You earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend, unlimited, and those points are redeemed for a statement credit that covers flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees. There’s no need to convert points to miles or points with a specific airline or hotel chain. Because you use the card normally to pay for your travel expenses, there are no black-out dates.

Right now, this card is offering 20,000 bonus points which can be used to book airfare or hotel stays without restrictions.

Best balance transfer credit card (for adults who need to simplify).

Bank AmeriCard. If there’s one thing you want from a credit card you wish to use to transfer a balance, it’s the lack of a fee. If there’s another thing you want, it’s a low interest rate so you can pay off that balance transfer without any extra costs. BankAmericard has the perfect offer. For the first 60 days, you can transfer balances from your other cards for free, and you’ll have 15 months to pay off that balance without paying a cent in interest (0% APR) as long as you pay at least the minimum due each month.

This is the perfect opportunity to consolidate your balances across several cards and create one manageable, monthly payment. But pay the balance in full within the 15-month period! As a bonus, your purchases during the first 60 days will also be treated to the same 0% APR for the first 15 months.

Best credit card offer for students (for adults who are trying to adult).

Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students. I got my first credit card in college. I signed up and got a free tee-shirt. You get more when you are approved for Citi’s card for college students, probably the credit card offer with the most chill. There’s 2,500 bonus points available for those who sign up, and you have to spend only $500 in the first three months to qualify.

The purpose of a student card is to help you build credit, so don’t expect too many frills besides the basic rewards and introductory 0% APR for 7 months.

Best small business credit card (for adults who think they’re important).

Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express. This is the standard, and if you’re building your business beyond yourself, this is a great choice. Watch out for the $175 annual fee (waived for the first year) with the AmEx Business Gold Rewards Card. But, there’s currently a 50,000 bonus points offer, requiring only $5,000 in purchases over the first three months.

This is a charge card, not a credit card, so you pay your bill in full every month.

Best credit card for building credit (for adults who are just starting to adult).

Discover it Secured Credit Card. Building credit can be difficult if you didn’t have certain advantages growing up, like parents who had their own solid credit and a desire to ensure you were starting your adult life with good credit. Without those benefits, creating a solid financial future for yourself and your family will have more obstacles.

Secured credit cards help establish credit, which allows you to qualify for better mortgage rates (or a mortgage at all) when the time comes, better interest rates for other loans, better prices on insurance, and even better apartments. While you’ll be approved for the Discover it Secured Credit Card without a credit history, this is more than just a basic card. You earn cash back on every purchase (limited) and receive your FICO credit score for free.

What’s in your wallet?

Tell us what kind of card (or cards) you have. And what’s the best feature or you? Cash back, travel rewards, or something else?

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You don’t need big bucks to get a jump on everyone else. Read More...

Investing is one of those things that most of us stick in the “stuff I’ll have enough money to do later” file. We see investing as something you do when you aren’t broke af.

The best time to start investing is now, while you’re still young enough to recover from mistakes — and while you have time on your side. Even if you’re no longer “young,” you’ll never be younger than you are today, so investing belongs on today’s to-do list, not tomorrow’s.

It seems like a hopeless situation when you’re struggling with money right now. You know you should put your money to work, but you don’t have enough money to buy a couple hundred shares of Apple stock.

If you think you don’t have enough money to start investing, the good news is that you’re probably wrong. Even when you’re broke, you can still begin investing. It doesn’t take much to get started, and it’s also easier than you think.

Use a company retirement plan.

Now that you’ve got a real job, there’s a good chance that you have the option to contribute to a retirement plan offered by your employer. Many of us don’t think of putting money in a 401(k) as investing, but it is. There’s no substitute for good benefits, and if your company offers a plan, jump on it.

Talk to HR, and have some of your money diverted to a 401(k). If your company offers a match, that’s free money that you can use to invest. You won’t miss what you never see, which is why an automatic contribution from your paycheck is one of the best strategies when you want to invest when you’re broke. You won’t even miss the money from your paycheck. Just put away a small percentage of your paycheck to start —5% — or even 1%.

Your paycheck will be a smidge smaller but you won’t even notice — until you get those quarterly statements that show you how you’ve saved without realizing it.

Make dollar-cost averaging your bae.

The idea behind dollar-cost averaging is that you take a set amount of money each month (and you can start investing with as little as $25 or even less with WealthSimple) and invest it. Buy as many shares as you can with that money. Dollar-cost averaging is especially effective when you use your money to purchase low-cost index mutual funds or ETFs.

Here’s an example: With a regular paycheck going to a regular checking account, set up a plan at WealthSimple to automatically invest just $10 every paycheck. It adds up quickly, but you’ll barely notice it.

Indexing FTW.

Index funds and ETFs take all the work out of picking stocks. You get access to a section of the market, so the diversification is taken care of and you don’t have to worry about what happens when you choose wrong. I’m boring as hell when it comes to investing because I’m still into indexing. It’s how I roll.

If you’re putting money aside in a 401(k) from your paycheck, you’re already dollar-cost averaging — and probably indexing to boot.

If your company doesn’t have a retirement plan, you can still open your own. Many companies will let you open an IRA and put in as little as $50 per month (or even less). Make it automatic and you won’t have to think about it. I also like using Betterment to help me reach my goals. If you have $100 per month to invest, this can be a great way to get started.

Over time, you’ll grow your portfolio through consistency.

DRIP it up.

I like to invest in index funds and ETFs that pay dividends and automatically invest them. Many brokers and companies offer DRIPs, or plans that take dividends paid out to you and automatically use the money to buy additional shares.

Investing in dividends makes sense because dividends are payouts companies make based on the number of shares you own.

Use DRIPs to automatically buy more shares, and your next payout is larger. You can buy more shares and then get a bigger payout. It’s a beautiful cycle. My decision to use dollar-cost averaging with DRIP funds is the reason that my portfolio kept growing, even during the Great Recession.

You can find out more by watching this Facebook live on how to invest using dividends.

TBH, DRIPs seem pointless at first, especially if you invest when you’re broke. Who cares if you got a 20-cent payout? With automatic reinvesting, though, the cycle continues and eventually, as you stick with the dollar-cost averaging to buy more shares, and as your payouts get bigger, everything builds on itself.

It’s all about building a foundation and being consistent. As you put into practice these strategies TOGETHER, you are likely to see results over time.

Use your pocket change.

If you are absolutely certain that you can’t spare $50 a month for investing, consider using Acorns.

This app connects to your bank account and automatically rounds up your recent purchases and puts the difference in an investment account. The fees aren’t my favorite, but if you aren’t investing at all, and this will get you started, it’s better than nothing.

And once you get the hang of setting money aside, the next step is to open a Roth IRA at a brokerage — one that will result in fewer overall fees.

Commit to your money.

Once you start investing, look for ways to invest more. Don’t forget to increase the amount you invest as you earn more and climb the career ladder.

The spare change you invest now won’t completely fund your future. But it will give you a good start and help you start a habit that can benefit you for the rest of your life.

4 easy ways to start investing right now.

Even if you’re broke af, you can start investing today. Here are a few recommended actions you can take immediately, even if you don’t think you have spare change.

WealthSimple.

WealthSimple arrived in the United States after its success in Canada, and its strength is its cost. When you’re starting out with investing, you don’t want fees digging into your profits.

There’s no charge to transfer money from a bank account into your WealthSimple account. I started out with a $10 weekly investment, but you could start with $5 a month if you want, or if that’s all you can afford right now.

And there’s a special deal right now. If you open an account, you will receive a $50 bonus. Open an account today and get that $50.

When you sign up, you fill out a short questionnaire to determine how your money should be invested using a mix of exchange-traded funds — one of the most frugal ways to invest in stocks and bonds. You can accept their suggestions —and if you’re new to investing, that’s what we would suggest you do — or change them to suit your tastes if you have a little more experience with investing.

If your account stays under $5,000, you will not be charged any fee for the first year. Above or after that, the management fee is a small 0.5% — though, if you find yourself with more than $100,000 invested, they’ll reduce your fee to 0.4%. This is a great deal when it comes to investing, especially if you’re starting out with just a little bit of cash to invest.

LendingClub.

If you’re open to a different kind of approach to investing, take a look at LendingClub. Rather than investing in stocks and bonds, you’re investing in loans. The returns are similar to stocks, and the risk is managed. The only drawback is that your investment is a little less liquid. That means if you need the money you’ve invested in an emergency situation, it might be hard to withdraw immediately. (That’s why it’s always best to have an emergency fund.)

LendingClub helps you pick out the best investments and gives you a good idea of what you can expect to return. You can use your investment to create an income stream. There’s a higher minimum investment of $1,000, but you can save up in a savings account until you are ready to start. After that, you can increase your investment with only $25.

Open an account with LendingClub today.

Ally Invest.

Ally Invest is a discount brokerage with truly low prices. Yes, the $4.95 fee per trade will cut into your profits if you invest small amounts in stocks or ETFs. If you want to invest frequently, WealthSimple mentioned above might be a better option, though your investment selection is limited. On the other hand, Ally Invest really lets you take control of your investments. There’s less guidance, but more flexibility.

Ally Invest used to be known as TradeKing, which made its name as one of the most popular discount online brokerages.

Open an account with Ally Invest today.

Betterment.

This is one of the godfathers of robo-investing. Betterment uses ETFs to help you reach your goals through asset allocation. You’ll be asked questions about your objectives, and your time frame. I love Betterment and use it to save for retirement, as well as to save up for travel.

You don’t need a ton to get started investing with Betterment, and your account comes with free automatic rebalancing and tax loss harvesting, if applicable. I also like how easy it is to adjust your investments for new goals. Plus, with the IRA, you have the option to have Betterment figure out how to max it out each year.

Open an account with Betterment today.

Learn how to invest and get started today.

There are three great options above for getting started with your investment portfolio. One of the great things about these options is that you can take advantage of time-tested strategies used by the best investors in the world.

Get started, and then learn more about investing. While I mostly stick to indexing, after I got started just putting something away, I discovered that I could learn more about investing and experiment a little. Now, I invest in REITs, and occasionally try the odd cryptocurrency. You don’t want to stake your future on these types of investments, but as you learn, you can try new things with “extra” money.

Every adult should have an investment account, and every adult should invest for their future, regardless of how difficult it might feel to let go of even $1 of cash today.

Your future you will thank your today you. All you need to do is just take one simple step forward today — even if it’s not a huge step.

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When I began my debt-freedom journey one of the biggest issues that I worried about was how my life would change.

Now, let’s think about that for a moment.

I was financially overextended, stressed out, and dealing with chronic anxiety from all of the debt that I was dealing with. But, my biggest concerns were:

  1. Would I lose the lifestyle that I had paid too much for?
  2. Would I have a somewhat normal social life during the debt repayment process?

Like many people, I spent a lot of money on going out to eat, trips, fashion, and fun. I thought that paying off debt would mean an end to all of that.

I soon discovered that I could have had all of those things in my life — if I reimagined how those wants would have a place in my life without financing them with debt.

Fortunately for you, I’ve figured out a ton of ways to have an amazing life doing pretty much the same stuff as before for free (or cheap) without affecting the quality of my experiences.

Get free stuff: how this works.

First, you actually have to believe that there are cool, fun, free, and amazing things that you could be enjoying right now!

I continue to be amazed by all of the free stuff that I get to do on a monthly basis. Tequila tasting and class? Check! Mixology class? Check! Professional development workshops? Check! Free travel? Check! I’ve done them all.

Now, you’re probably wondering: where on earth I’m finding all of these free events and resources?

Before I begin looking, I make sure that I am very clear about the free stuff I’m looking for. I’m specifically interested in the following types of free goods and services:

  • Experiences that enhance my social life.
  • Ways to educate myself for free.
  • Professional development opportunities.
  • Travel
  • Delicious meals
  • Classes
  • Clothing
  • Coffee (ahem)

I do not look for the following free goods and services:

  • Fast food-I don’t eat it.
  • Professional services such as hair care. I’ll pay for that or do it myself!

Once I know what I want, it becomes very easy to get free stuff I’m looking for. I will be candid and say that it the bigger the city you live in the easier it is to find free goods and services. However, there are freebies everywhere, so don’t count out your small town.

Networking.

Your network doesn’t have to be huge, but, it helps to know people.

Spend some time actively meeting new people in your community at least once a month. Volunteer, attend regular meetings, basically be the person who shows up regularly, is helpful and shares cool tips and information with the people that you’re meeting.

Likewise, they will share similar information. I can’t tell you how many great deals I would have missed out on if I didn’t have the network that I do. Just having that network has clued me into awesome musical performances, cool classes, and insider tips and deals.

Meetup.com.

I’m officially obsessed with this amazing resource.

If you’re not familiar with Meetup, it was created in New York City after the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. It was a way to create and grow community.

Since then, it has morphed into a way to an incredible community building resource internationally. Here are examples of some of the free things that I’ve attended via Meetup: mixology classes in Denver (and may have gotten really drunk), hiking in the Blue Mountains of Australia, and digital marketing classes for my online business to name a few.

You can even find people for activities like book clubs, board game nights, and diner’s clubs. With meetup, you can find cool things to do and meet interesting people without spending a lot of money.

How does Meetup work? Well, it’s free to sign up for 95% of Meetup groups. Some group organizers will have a small fee to sign up, but I’ve never seen anything over $5.

The wonderful thing about Meetup is that the group leaders get group pricing for the different events that they put together. You get discounts, or even split the bill, making it cheaper for everyone.

In larger areas, for larger meetup groups, it’s also possible to connect with sponsors — like the large whiskey producer that provided the free mixology class that I attended. Free booze and lessons on how to mix up? Score!

Facebook Events.

In the past couple of years, I began paying more attention to the Facebook Events being shared in my feed.

I was amazed to find that there were so many free and inexpensive things to do in my town. I discovered that businesses often create one-off free events to get people to come in their doors and hopefully get enticed into continuing to come back for more.

Some events were to celebrate an anniversary or special event such as the Aspen-Snowmass 50th anniversary. They sold $6.50 lift tickets for a day of skiing. I’m on the lookout for other ski resort anniversaries in the upcoming years.

From live music at a local venue, to lectures in the park, to team trivia nights, to free help with your taxes, pay attention to Facebook Events. When you mark that you’re interested in something, you might be surprised that similar events appear in your feed. Many of these events are free or cheap.

Google it.

Your city probably hosts a ton of local events that you may be unaware of. Spend some time researching free or discounted days at the following places:

  • Museums
  • Recreation centers
  • Libraries
  • Botanical gardens
  • Coworking spaces

Because it’s the beginning of the New Year this is a fantastic time to spend half an hour looking for free fun for the year to come. Put the events on your calendar now!

Plus, Google is a great way to find promo codes. Before I buy something online, I do a quick search to see if I can get a percentage off — or even get free shipping.

Volunteer.

I enjoy volunteering as much as the next person, I just think people spend time thinking about the value of their time. Basically, I’m at the point where I want to get paid for everything that I do.

That said, volunteering is a great way to gain access to festivals, sporting events, and more. Want to check out the music festival? Volunteer to help set up the stage, doing some cleanup, or collect tickets. I know EMTs who volunteer in their off-hours to be available about sporting events and concerts. They get free admission and most of the night is usually slow.

However, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the value of your time and the event that you would like to attend. Sometimes, it’s worth it to just pay the money and have a relaxing experience.

Create an Event.

This year I plan on creating the events that I would love to attend. I would also like to be paid for them as well (we’ll see how that goes).

Depending on the type of event that you’re creating this could be a huge time commitment. Again, don’t do this for free if it’s something that you should be paid for.

But, if you can organize a big enough event, you might be able to get sponsors and others to pick up the cost. Have fun, raise your stock in the community, and maybe get paid, too. That’s not bad for a day’s work.

Have fun.

Enjoy the journey as you find awesome events to attend throughout the year.

I love how I’ve saved thousands over the past year by spending a brief amount of time each week to find ways to continue to enjoy the same quality of life without going broke.

You can, too. It turns into a quest — one you can achieve with a little effort.

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