Category: Commercial Real Estate

The Half Payment Budget Method Explained

by Phillip Warren

The post The Half Payment Budget Method Explained appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

The half payment budget method might be what you need.  If traditional budgets do not work, you really might want to consider this method instead.

 

half payment budget method

 

If you do any research, you will find many ways to budget.  However, many times, the options you find do not work for you.  That is why it is important to find the right budget for your needs.  A new one you may not have tried is the the half-payment budget method.

This system helps many people stop living paycheck to paycheck.  Simply explained, it is where you take your regular, recurring payments and divide them in half.  Each payday, you set aside the necessary money out of each check so that you have the full payment available when it is due.  The half payment is not paid at that time, but rather you hang onto it and pay it on the due date.

If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget. There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.

HOW TO USE THE HALF-PAYMENT BUDGET METHOD

In order to explain this in a simple manner, here is how this system might look for you:

Monthly income: $2,500 (paid $1,250 every other week)

Recurring monthly payments (other than utilities):

Mortgage/Rent: $900
Vehicle Payments: $450
Auto insurance: $100

When you apply the half-payment method, your weekly budget would look something like this:

Paycheck #1 – $1,250

Set aside $450 for rent/mortgage
Set aside $225 for vehicle payments
Set aside $50 for insurance

Leaves $525 out of your paycheck for other expenses

Paycheck #2 – $1,250

Take $450 from previous paycheck and add $450 and pay $900
Take $225 from previous paycheck and add $225 and make full $450 payment
Take $50 from previous paycheck and add $50 to make $100 payment

Leaves $525 out of your paycheck for other expenses from each check

 

Now, let’s compare this to the method that many use – to just pay when the bill is due:

Paycheck #1 – $1,250  

Rent – $900

Leaves $350 for all expenses

Paycheck #2 – $1,250

Vehicle payments – $450
Insurance – $100

Leaves $700 for additional expenses

If you do the math, you will notice that you still have the same to spend over the course of a month, however, you will see a difference in the amount from each paycheck.  You might show that you have more money left after your 2nd paycheck of the month, but will you really save that?  Most people do not. If they have extra month to spend, they just spend it.

 

How to Start

I would not recommend that you jump in and change all of your bills so that they are paid using this method.  That may be too much and you might quit before you even really get started!  Instead, select one bill, such as a car payment, and try using the half payment method for a few months.  Once you see it works, you can transition other bills into this same payment method.

 

Why it Works

So, why would you use the half payment method?  For many it works better because you have around the same income to spend out of every check, rather than cutting your spending in half like you see in the second example.  For many, there is always that paycheck that makes spending tough.  When you have to pay a few larger bills all out of one check, it often leaves little to no money left for other purchases.

By changing to the half method, you are still paying your bills, but you are just earmarking money to pay a bill due later in the month.  You still have the same income.  You still pay your bills on time. However, you have more disposable income every two weeks by doing it in this way.

What is great about this method is that it works no matter how you are paid.  If you are paid monthly or weekly you might try using a quarter payment method every week (breaking out your check to leave spending weekly).

 

If you want to learn more about understanding your money attitude, change your spending habits and get out of debt once and for all, check out the Financial Rebook eBook.

The post The Half Payment Budget Method Explained appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.


Source: pennypinchinmom.com

What is Panic Selling & How Does it Work?

by Phillip Warren
woman covering eyes

Panic selling is when enough investors want to sell their holdings at the same time that it creates a profound drop in prices. That drop scares other investors into selling, which causes prices to fall still further, which frightens more investors, and so on.

The resulting panic can erase vast amounts of wealth. It can take weeks or even years for the markets to recover from a serious panic.

markets can crash.

Throughout the history of every kind of market, panic occasionally sets in. Sometimes it’s a major global event that sets it off, like what happened with the stock markets in March of 2020 as the global COVID-19 pandemic picked up speed and countries entered lockdown.

Other times, it’s simply a matter of a given asset—like housing in 2008—being bid up to unrealistic levels, followed by the mass consensus of what it’s worth changing seemingly overnight.

What Causes Panic Selling?

While panic is a very human response to the prospect of major financial loss, there are also other factors that can trigger investors to start panic-selling stocks.

Panic Selling and Margin Calls

In the Great Crash of 1929, there were many investors who had borrowed heavily to invest in the stock market. When the markets dropped, they received something called a margin call, requiring that they pay back the loans they took out to invest. Those margin calls required that they sell potentially even more stock to pay back the loans, which caused the markets to fall even further.

Panic Selling and Stop-loss Orders

Similarly, there are trading programs that can throw fuel on the fire of a bout of panic selling. These can be as simple as a stop-loss order, a standing order to buy or sell a particular security if it ever reaches a predetermined price, which investors commonly use in their brokerage accounts.

A stop-loss order can be a way to take advantage of price dips to buy a stock at a discount. But during a sudden drop in the markets, stop-loss orders often lead to automatic sales of stocks, as investors try to lock in their gains.
These automatic sales—in large enough numbers, can accelerate the decline in a market, and contribute to the panic.

Panic Selling and Algorithms

There are algorithms employed by major financial institutions and professional investors that will automatically sell if the price of a given stock falls to a certain level. The crash of 1987 was caused in part by some of the first computerized trading programs. And in 2010, one trader who lost control of his highly sophisticated trading software was responsible for the “flash crash,” which caused roughly a trillion dollars of market capitalization to disappear in under an hour.

The system-wide risk presented by these tools is one reason that most major stock exchanges have installed a series trading curbs and “circuit breakers” in place to slow down panic selling and give the traders who use these programs to recalibrate them before a full-fledged selling spree can run out of control.

The Risks of Panic Selling

When markets drop suddenly, it can be scary for investors. And one of the biggest risks may be to give into that fear, and join in the selling.

But one thing to remember is that markets go up and down, but an investor only loses money when they sell their holdings. By pulling their money out of the stock market, an investor not only accepts a lower price, but also removes the chance of participating in any rebound.

Loss is a big risk of panic selling. People who invest for goals that are years or decades away can likely weather a panic. But if a person is investing for retirement, a sudden panic just before they retire can create a major problem, especially if they were planning to live off those investments.

The danger of sudden, panic-driven drops in the market is one reason it makes sense for investors to review their holdings on a regular basis, and adjust their holdings away from riskier assets like stocks, toward steadier assets like bonds, as they get nearer to retirement.

That risk is also why most professionals recommend people keep 6-12 months of expenses in cash, in case of an emergency. That way, even if a financial crisis causes a person to lose their job, they can stay in the market. It’s a way to protect their long-term plans from being jeopardized by everyday expenses.

Finding Opportunities in Panic Selling

During a panic, there are typically enough scared people making irrational decisions to create valuable buying opportunities. The stock-market crashes in 1987 and in 2008, for instance, were each followed by a decade in which the S&P 500 rewarded investors with double-digit annual returns. (As always, however, past performance is no guarantee of future success.)

The problem is that there’s no way to know when a panic has reached its end, and when the market has fallen to its bottom. Professional traders with complex mathematical models have had mixed results figuring out when a market will rebound. But for most investors—even savvy ones—it’s a guessing game at best.

There are two ways an investor can try to take advantage of a bout of panic selling:

1. The first is not to panic.
2. The other is to keep investing when the market is down, while stocks are selling for much lower prices.

Dollar Cost Averaging

One way to take advantage of panic selling is with dollar cost averaging. With this long-term plan, an investor buys a fixed dollar amount of an investment on a regular basis—say, every month. It allows an investor to take advantage of lower purchase prices and limits the amount they invest at when valuations are higher. As such, it’s a strategy for all seasons—not just during a panic. Most investors already employ some form of dollar cost averaging in their 401(k) plan.

The Takeaway

SoFi Invest® offers an active investing solution that allows members to choose their own stocks, or take advantage of an automated investing solution that invests their money based on personal goals and risk tolerance.

Find out how you can get started investing today with SoFi.


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).
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For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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The post What is Panic Selling & How Does it Work? appeared first on SoFi.


Source: sofi.com

6 Ways to Save Money on New Clothes

by Phillip Warren

6 Ways to Save Money on New Clothes

Cut Your Clothing Clutter

If you have a favorite navy shirt, chances are, you rarely wear your second-favorite navy shirt, and never wear your third favorite! If you tend to buy a lot of items that are similar to each other, try organizing your closet by color, so when you pause by that navy polo shirt at the store, you’ll remember just how many navy shirts you already own.

Shop in the Off-Season

For the best deals on clothes, shop in the off-season. Buy spring and summer clothing in July and August, and fall and winter clothing in January and February. (You can often find the best sales right after the holiday season.) It’s sometimes a bummer to buy something you’re not going to be able to wear for six months, but when the time comes to switch seasons, you’ll be happy you already have some new clothes to wear—all of which were purchased on sale!

Befriend Those in the Know

If you have a favorite shop you find yourself spending a lot of time in, make sure to get friendly with the sales staff! Clothing stores often have unannounced sales, or they regularly begin sales on certain days of the week. If you’re down with the people who work there, they’ll often you tip you off. And if they really like you, they may let you put an item on layaway until it goes on sale a few days later.

Keep It Simple

When you’re buying clothes, always go for classic looks rather than modern, trendy ones. A blue V-neck T-shirt will be fashionable year after year, while something with more exotic colors or patterns will go out of style quickly. By choosing the basics, you won't have to buy as many new articles of clothing each season.

Take It to the Tailor

Going to a tailor may seem like an expensive proposition, but it’s often worth it if you unearth a good deal on a suit or other item of clothing that doesn’t quite fit. Found some jeans for ten bucks that look great but are an inch too long? A jacket that’s a steal, but a bit too baggy in the arms? For a small price, you can get these items custom-fitted at a tailor. And you’ll still be saving a bundle from what the normal retail price would be.

Revamp Shoes and Purses Yourself

Not happy with the color of a handbag or pair of fancy shoes? Instead of buying new accessories, turn that unbecoming chartreuse into an elegant black with a can of shoe color spray. You can pick up an inexpensive can of shoe color from a repair shop, then revamp those heels yourself instead of paying someone else to do it for you.

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

How to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending in Your Budget

by Phillip Warren

With so many of us dealing with the coronavirus pandemic (plus the financial fallout from it) and spending more time at home this year, there’s a very good chance your family budget looks different. Our own budget had some big adjustments (transportation costs went down to basically nothing) along with some minor changes (buying supplies and items around the house for projects).

Our money dates have had us reevaluate some things and redirect money to other expenses and savings. Besides making sure that you’re taking care of essential expenses and building up your financial cushion, you want to want to make sure you include another key area in your budget – some guilt-free spending in there as well.

Why Budgets Need to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending

First off what exactly is guilt-free spending? And why should families include it when planning out their budget. Basically, it covers the expenses that you enjoy. Every family has different ways they use that money. It could be travel, eating out together, adding another pair of shoes to your collection, or gadgets. With families having to deal with so many decisions and challenges, there has been an increasing awareness of having proper self-care as part of the routine. Families are now including that in their budgets.

The key part of keeping these expenses guilt-free is that they bring you joy without breaking the bank. These aren’t frivolous spending sprees. They can be meaningful purchases such as supplies for a hobby like painting that enriches your life. Second, these expenses are planned ahead of time and baked into your budget so you’re not taking on debt or upsetting your family’s cash flow.

Why Budgets Typically Fail

One of the reasons why I think having some fun money in your budget is a wise move is because it’ll help make your budget more sustainable. How? If I asked you what the point of a budget is, what would you say? Most tell me it’s to keep their spending in check.

It makes sense to believe that because for most families that’s what it’s about – restrictions. However, the best budgets I’ve seen are geared towards the direction of the money. I’ve interviewed families who have retired early or have knocked out a ton of debt and something they had in common was that their budgets reflected their priorities and circumstances.

Before they put pen to paper (or tap the app), they sat down and defined what goals they wanted to achieve. If you had to break down a budget the three key areas are basically:

  1. Paying your essential bills.
  2. Building long term financial stability.
  3. Have the money you can use now to enjoy.

Many times, the disagreements, arguments, and sometimes sabotage with budgets come from friction on finding a balance between spending money with long term stability and enjoying now. If you skew too much to saving up for the future, one or more of you in the family could start getting resentful. Financial infidelity or set back with keeping the budget can occur for many reasons, but some spouses say one reason is there’s absolutely no wiggle room in the budget for fun. If you’re only focused on the now when something comes up – hello 2020! – you’re left without a safety net.

For families with kids, that’s an additional source of stress they don’t need. I noticed that the families who hit their goals had found a way to balance things. They save towards their long term goals as well as set aside money to enjoy now. How? By redoing how they approached their budgets.

Easy Budget Framework to Use

Let’s go back to those three key goals of any budget – taking care of essentials, saving for the future, and spending on the present. Families looking to include all of these goals need a budget that can weave them together. If you’re just starting out with a budget and are still trying to figure out a framework, an easy foundational budget is the 50/20/30 budget. It divides up your money into those three key goals, with 50% going to necessary expenses, 20% towards financial stability and wealth, and 30% towards discretionary or fun money.

Feel free to adjust the percentages based on your circumstances, but for many families that three-bucket approach is easy enough to set up and it gives them enough wiggle room where there can enjoy some of their money now. Once you’ve created that budget, you can then take the next step – automating your money. We’ve done this for over a decade and it has been incredibly helpful. We have our bills automated every paycheck plus our savings and investments are scheduled monthly. With those necessary things taken care of first, we know whatever spending we do won’t harm our expenses.

Staying on Top of Your and Budget – The Easy Way

Now that you have a budget and you’re including some guilt-free spending, how do you make sure you’re staying on track? There are some wonderful options out there including money apps like Mint. You can stay on top of your money without losing your mind because the apps can pull that data from your accounts and give you an easy and clear way to see where your money is going. You can also use Mint to track your goals like paying down debt or saving up for a house. With that information in front of you can quickly and easily see how you’re doing anytime.

Another handy tool with Mint is how simple it is to set up alerts on certain spending. So if you have set aside $200 for your ‘fun’ account, Mint can notify you when your spending is getting close to your limit. It’s a more proactive and real-time way to manage your money without having to worry about every single penny.

Your Take on Budgets

As you can see, with a little planning you can be financially savvy and enjoy some fun now. I’d love to get your thoughts – how do you approach your budget? What are some must-have expenses in yours?

The post How to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending in Your Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.


Source: mint.intuit.com

The Top Financial Resolutions for 2021

by Phillip Warren
Stumped on resolutions? These are the top financial to-do's for 2021.

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

5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation

by Phillip Warren

The post 5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Do you have high hopes that there will be traveling your family’s future, but not quite sure how you can afford it?

You’re not alone. While Americans will spend an average of 10% of their household income on vacationing this year, a full 74% take on debt for their trips. Each of these tips offers you both an easy and effective way to save a substantial amount of money off your next vacation trip. Use them wisely, and you might even be able to squeeze in some extra travel this year.

1. Make use of grocery store prepared food sections

Some people think it’s crazy to not eat at restaurants for all of your vacation meals. Mostly, they want the entire week off from cooking any food.

I don’t blame them (or you) for thinking this. So, what if I told you that you can still avoid cooking all week, and not actually eat out for every single meal?

While vacationing, find your local grocery store with a prepared food section. You can find hot meals for your family – complete with salads and desserts – for much less than what it would cost to eat out. Plus, there’s’ no need to pay a tip.

2. Plan activities around discount times and coupons

You can easily save a bundle on your vacation expenses by planning your activities around available discounts. This doesn’t have to be as limiting as it sounds, it just means you have to be smart about it. For example, you could:

  • Buy a local Entertainment book and use the tourist coupons that come with it.
  • Purchase discounted tickets to local attractions and activities on group buying sites (such as Groupon.com, and LivingSocial.com) by entering the zip code of where you’ll be traveling to.
  • Plan your trip dates around free museum days (I did this on a trip to France, and got in to see the Louvre on its free Sunday of the month).

3. Change the season you travel in

One of the easiest ways you can save on almost all the costs of your next vacation is by simply changing the season that you take it. The time of year you choose makes a huge difference in how much you’ll pay – it’s a simple illustration of supply and demand.

During summertime when kids are out of school and families want to get their vacations in, you’ll pay more. But if you decide to leave for a trip to Disney World one week before schools traditionally let out? Then you’ll not only save yourself tons of waiting time in lines but a lot of money.

In fact, that’s what personally happened to me over five years ago when my husband and I decided last minute to drive to Disney World. It was May, and there were virtually no people around. No lines, no waiting, and hardly a kid in sight.

We asked anyone we could find what was going on, and they said that it would be all-out pandemonium just one week later when their peak season begins (when the majority of kids are out of school). We had unknowingly hit the jackpot, and our cheap hotel bill reinforced that!

Get creative by using winter breaks, trips during the school year, and long weekends in the off-season to save a bundle without even trying.

4. Rethink traditional hotel stays 

Next to transportation costs to get to your destination, hotel costs will make the second biggest dent in your budget. With an average cost of $133.34/night to stay in a hotel, you can see how a 5-night ($666.70) or a 7-night vacation ($933.38) can really add up.

One of the easiest ways to save on vacations is by rethinking traditional hotel stays.

Consider options like these, all of which I’ve done myself:

  • Staying with family or friends
  • Share a hotel room with family or friends
  • Book a rental with local homeowners instead of with hotels (using sites like AirBnB or Vrbo)
  • Use hotel deal sites to snatch up unfilled rooms (such as  Secretflying.com, and TheFlightDeal.com)

5.  Consider group travel

Traveling in groups allows you to pool your money for better rates. My husband’s family, for example, likes to go all-in on a beach house for a long weekend in Galveston. We generally get a 5 to 6-bedroom rental right on the beach, and the cost is just $200-$300 per family for 3-4 nights. If we were to travel on our own, we would never be able to afford such a nice place.

Not only that, but if your group travel entails a road trip, you may be able to carpool with someone to save on gas costs. And if you split up meal prep duties between families like we do? You not only have to cook only once or twice per stay, but you don’t have to eat out in restaurants the whole time.

Another way to secure travel savings in groups is by going after group discounts. Whether booking excursions, airfare, or anything else with a travel agent or by yourself, be sure to ask about possible group discounts.

Don’t forget to shop around

Pricing for hotels, airfare, and things to do can vary greatly. Don’t just visit a company’s website and assume that’s the best price. Check a number of sites — including discounters like Priceline — and look for package deals. You should also consider looking for less-traditional sources for booking trip. Warehouse clubs Costco and Sam’s Club, for example, offer deals on travel (sometimes very good ones).

It’s also important to use any discounts you have coming your way. Are you in AAA? Does someone in the family have a trade association membership that offers special deals? Check and you might unlock a special deal. Use these “work smarter, not harder” strategies when it comes to saving money on your next vacation, and you won’t have vacation debt lingering for months after your return.

–By Amanda Grossman

 

The post 5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.


Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Flexible Spending Accounts: Rules, Regulations, and Uses

by Phillip Warren
clear piggy bank

Flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, are special savings accounts offered through some employer benefit plans. They allow the account holder to pay for certain out-of-pocket medical and dependent care costs with tax-free money.

However, “tax-free money” is a phrase that’s not used too often in personal finance articles—at least not legitimate ones.

So it’s no surprise that FSAs come with a decent number of rules and regulations, which limit the application of this special, tax-favored savings vehicle.

For instance, FSA rules cap the amount of money that can be placed in the account each year ($2,750 for 2021), and also dictate which types of expenses qualify for an FSA distribution.

Still, FSAs can be a powerful tool for taking care of unavoidable medical costs that frequently wreak havoc on American finances, even with the rules that keep them in check.

Flexible Spending Account Explained


We’ve covered flexible spending accounts in depth elsewhere on our site, but as a quick refresher, FSAs are savings programs offered through employers—which means that self-employed people, like freelancers, aren’t eligible.

(Psst: if that’s you, buying a healthcare plan on the market might be an option to consider, though you may also be able to get coverage through an employed spouse’s plan.)

FSAs are also sometimes called flexible spending arrangements, and there are a few sub-types, such as dependent care FSAs (DCFSAs) and limited purpose FSAs (LPFSAs).

However, for the purposes of this article, the focus will be on the account rules that govern plain old healthcare FSAs, whose funds can be used to cover you, your spouse, and your dependents.

Flexible Spending Account Rules: An Overview

IRS Publication 502 .

From acupuncture and alcoholism to birth control pills and psychological counselling, many services do count as qualified medical expenses.

Along with being the right kind of medical expense, services paid through FSA funds must be applied to the right people in order to be covered. Eligible beneficiaries include:

•  The account holder
•  Their spouse
•  Dependents claimed on their tax return
•  Children age 26 and under

Keep in mind, too, that FSAs generally work in conjunction with other types of health benefits and coverage, and funds can’t be used to reimburse services that are covered under other health plans.

It might be a valuable exercise to write out all of the expected medical expenses you’ll face as a family at the beginning of the plan year in order to decide how much to contribute, including additional coverages, in order to avoid overcontribution. While nobody can predict the future, some routine expenses can be foreseen—and a little bit of planning might save a lot of forfeited funds in the end.

Taking Distributions from an FSA


The process for taking distributions from an FSA may vary based on the plan. In some cases, distributions are made from an FSA to reimburse the account holder for medical expenses they’ve incurred. Some FSAs also have a debit, credit, or stored value card that can be used to pay directly for qualifying expenses.

Fair Health Consumer , would set back an uninsured person living in Portland, OR more than $20,000. Although that cost varies depending on location, it’s clear to see that additional coverage is necessary for most.

Furthermore, although the tax-free nature of FSAs is attractive, the prospect of forfeiting parts of a paycheck is definitely not—and there are other ways to save cash for medical expenses and other emergencies which offer not just flexibility, but growth.

For example, the average savings account earns 0.50% APY in interest, and up to 0.80%, per the latest FDIC rate cap information, which isn’t a huge return, but is more than the 0% you’ll earn on an FSA. That said, the value of tax-free dollars could easily eclipse the interest rate if the funds in the FSA are actually used.

While an FSA can be a beneficial tool, especially for those who know they’ll spend a decent amount out of pocket on healthcare, a SoFi Money® cash management account can add additional help in this instance; there are no account fees and account holders can earn cashback while they save and spend.

The Vaults system allows you to set money aside for specific savings goals—including medical expenses as well as more exciting objectives like vacations or home renovations. The tax benefits of the FSA can make them an appealing and useful tool. But if you’re not sure you’ll use the funds saved in an FSA, SoFi Money could be an alternate solution. Those that will definitely use funds saved in an FSA may consider using SoFi Money as a complementary tool to work toward other saving goals.

Want to learn more about how SoFi Money might help you get your money right? Signing up takes minutes.


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
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.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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The post Flexible Spending Accounts: Rules, Regulations, and Uses appeared first on SoFi.


Source: sofi.com

20 Kitchen Items You Should Never Pay For

by Phillip Warren

Substitute egg separator

When you need to separate the egg white from the egg yolk, here's an incredibly simple way to do it. Crack the egg into a bowl and grab an empty plastic water bottle. Rest the mouth of the bottle on the yolk and squeeze the middle of the bottle like a turkey baster. The yolk will be sucked right into the bottle. Watch a video of this here.

Make your own turkey baster

Speaking of turkey baster, you can make your own with a water balloon, a straw, and a utility knife. (Read this article from eHow.com for step-by-step instructions.) MacGyver would be proud.

Free trussing twine!

If you want to truss your turkey—i.e., tie the wings and legs of a bird down for more even cooking—you don't need to buy trussing twine. Use dental floss! Not only does it come in a small container, it’s very strong and won’t burn in high heat.

DIY trivet

If you have extra ceramic tiles left over from a home improvement project, you can use them as trivets. Protect tables and countertops from hot pots and dishes by affixing peel-and-stick felt corners underneath each tile. 

SEE MORE: Domestic CEO's How to Stock a Kitchen

Cooling rack stand-in

Keep your cool during holiday baking days. When you’re covered with flour, have no idea where the kitchen table used to be, and just pulled the fifth blisteringly hot tray of gingerbread men out of the oven, simply flip over cardboard egg trays (you’ll need two, spaced a little bit apart) and set the baking pan on top.

You can also use butter knives for cooling racks: Place them in rows on your counter, alternating directions. They'll keep hot baked goods elevated.

DIY bowl scraper

Have you ever seen those bowl scrapers in kitchen stores that sell for $3 to $10? These circular, plastic tools are easy to make at home. Simply take the lid of a round take-out container, cut it in half, then remove the rim. Instant savings!

Substitute rolling pin

If you're in need of a rolling pin, look no further than that bottle of vodka you have in your freezer. The chilled glass will result in a flakier pastry. Even a wine bottle will do.

Who needs cookie cutters?

Rather than buying a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter, use a wine glass or a clean, empty aluminum can. If you're making donuts, use the mouth of an empty water or soda bottle to cut out the center hole.

A simple flour sifter

Julia Child probably used a flour sifter while preparing fine pastries, but you can keep things simple by putting a mesh colander over your mixing bowl, filling it with the needed amount of flour, and gently tapping or shaking it until the flour sifts through. You can use this for powdered sugar as well.

RELATED: Nutrition Diva's Keep Your Kitchen Germ Free

Replacement pastry brush

An unused toothbrush is the perfect substitute for a pastry brush. A paper towel will also work in a pinch!

Easily make a funnel

If you have aluminum foil in your kitchen, you don’t need a funnel. Simply fold a sheet of foil in half width-wise and roll into the shape of a funnel.

You can also use an “egg shell with a hole pierced in it” for a funnel, according to the book Thrift for Troubled Times, published in 1917 by Britain's "National Training School for Cookery"!

Tenderize meat without a mallet

An unopened can of beans or vegetables makes a great meat tenderizer. Cover the bottom with plastic wrap and pound away on the meat just as you would use a mallet.

Substitute jar opener

You’ve seen those nifty, colorful jar openers in cool houseware shops, but you might not realize you’ve got a bunch of tools that are just as effective lying around your garage or basement. Using an X-Acto knife, slice open an old tennis ball and you’ve got two handy openers—game, set, match! Now pass the olives.

Handy stem remover

Hate grapefruit, and wondering what to do with those grapefruit spoons that came with your set of silver? Use their serrated edges to carve the stems out of tomatoes and strawberries.

CHECK OUT: Who Knew's 5 Essential Tips to Prevent Kitchen Disasters

Make your own juicer

Instead of purchasing a handheld juicer (also known as a reamer) for fruit, simply use one blade from a hand mixer instead. Halve the fruit and twist the blade into it for easy juicing.

Homemade potato masher

The only thing better than homemade mashed potatoes is a homemade potato masher. Interlace the tines of two forks together (the forks should be facing each other) and mash away.

DIY garlic press

The tines of a fork can also be useful for mashing garlic. Just place the tines flat against a cutting board and rub a whole, peeled garlic clove against them.

Replacement martini shaker

Who needs a martini shaker? Instead of buying this expensive bar tool, simply use a stainless steel thermos with a screw-in lid. If there’s no way to close the sipping hole on the top, cover it with your thumb while you shake!

Easy bag clip

Kitchen supply stores sell bag clips to keep your half-empty bags of snacks and cereals more airtight. What's cheaper, and available at the 99¢ store? Clothespins! Or use binder clips.

How to make a utensil holder

If you need a kitchen caddy to hold the utensils you do have, read how this intrepid blogger made homemade utensil holders with plastic Beanie Baby boxes. Who knew?

For more second uses for everyday items, follow our Clever Second Uses Pinterest board! For more great kitchen tips, check out our eBook, Cooking Made Easy, available for Kindle and Nook.


Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Under the Influence: 40% of Americans Have Purchased Something Seen on Social Media

by Phillip Warren

Social media has wormed its way into most aspects of our lives. It’s how many adults make friends, find dates, and even build career networks. It’s a virtual portfolio of our personal and public selves, and of course many of us want to show our best online. Which presents the question — how do you influence others, and how do others influence you on social media?

More than a third of Americans admit that social media has influenced their spending habits and that they overspend to keep up with their friends’ fun. Meanwhile, 64 percent of Americans are wondering how their friends can afford the expensive trips and trends they’re sharing online.

Online shopping has seen significant gains since the start of quarantine in the U.S. Recent reports find that 40 percent of consumers have increased their online spending to some degree. Food is the most popular item bought online, and 31 percent of Americans say they’ve ordered takeout. Hygiene is the second most popular online purchase with 27 percent of Americans shopping disinfectants and other items online, followed by clothing at 26 percent. 

The feeling of needing to keep up with friends and perform on social media is at the core of many poor online spending decisions and can be detrimental to your financial health. A $30 concert ticket may not seem like much, but this builds a habit of overspending that can impact savings goals and unbalance your budget. 

We surveyed 1,500 people to learn more about social media spending and found:

  • 40 percent of Americans have made a purchase because of social media influence
  • A quarter of Americans have bought clothing or accessories, the most popular category, because of social media
  • Nearly 20 percent of Americans admit to judging others for sharing their purchases

40% of Americans Have Made a Purchase Influenced by Social Media

Bar graph displaying what products Americans are buying after seeing them on social media.

Our survey found that 40 percent of Americans admit to purchasing an item or experience after viewing something similar on social media. Clothing and accessories was the most popular category, with 24 percent of respondents sharing that they’ve shopped new looks on social media. 

This percentage drops significantly to just 12 percent buying beauty and health products — the second most popular category. Vacation experiences were the least influential category with just 5 percent of Americans planning a trip because of social media. 

Generation X (ages 35–44) is the most likely to purchase with social media influence. Forty-four percent of Gen X respondents say they’ve purchased something they saw online, with clothing and accessories keeping its popularity at 27 percent.

On the other hand, Baby Boomers (ages 65+) were the least likely to buy from social media at 31 percent, followed by Generation Z (ages 18–24) at 36 percent. Only 40 percent of Baby Boomers use social media, while 70+ percent of other age groups connect online. This is likely why fewer Baby Boomers shop with social media. 

Additionally, 46 percent of women have purchased something they saw on social media while only 34 percent of men had done the same. Both women and men prefer clothing, but men put more value in experienced-based purchases, like events and vacations, than women seem to. 

Clothing and Accessories Have the Most Influence

Clothing and accessories remained the top influencer across age and gender groups. Gen X women are the most interested in fashion with 38 percent buying clothing or accessories they saw shared on social media. Men were less interested in fashion than women, and Gen Z and Baby Boomers were the least interested with just 14 percent of men in each generation buying fashion trends from social media. 

The fashion industry has built a huge market around the ability to control messaging and increase accessibility through visual apps. A quick and easy example of this is the 847+ million posts under #fashion on Instagram. 

Even among fashion influencers, 42 percent shop directly through Instagram. The cycle of trending fashion grows as 86 percent of influencers purchase items they’ve seen other influencers wear, and are likely to then share the trend on their own account. 

Nearly 20% of Users Judge Others for Sharing Their Purchases Online

20% of users judge others for sharing their purchases, 64% wonder how their friends afford these purchases

While a large percentage of Americans admit to making purchases they see on social media, a fifth of respondents also admit to judging others for sharing their purchases online. Interestingly, younger generations were the most judgemental. Twenty-three percent of Gen Z users judged their peers’ purchases, while just 15 percent of those 55 and older judged others’ purchases. 

It seems men are the most likely to judge others for sharing what they buy. Twenty-seven percent of Gen Z men admit to judging others’ purchases, while just 19 percent of the youngest generation’s women do the same. 

Recent research suggests that there may be a direct tie between envy and conspicuous consumption on apps such as Instagram. Preliminary research suggests that many users believe others are posting their purchases to flaunt exclusivity, which builds envy and may support why so many users are quick to judge others. Those who reported high levels of envy were also more likely to consciously purchase items they had seen in an attempt to close the perceived wealth gap. 

Social media trends are here to stay, and marketers are taking advantage of the authenticity of influencer marketing. A third of Americans admit to spending more than they can afford to keep up with their friends, and social media envy plays a large part in this influence. The best way to stay financially secure is to commit to a budget. Apps like Mint can help you plan and stick to your larger savings goals and combat the habit to impulse buy.

View the Social Media Influences infographic

Sources: Charles Schwab | Intellifluence | HelpGuide | Harvard School of Public Health | Medium 

 

Methodology 

This study consisted of two survey questions conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,500 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey ran during August 2020. 

The post Under the Influence: 40% of Americans Have Purchased Something Seen on Social Media appeared first on MintLife Blog.


Source: mint.intuit.com