Browse Category: Passive Spending

You’re Paying For What!?

You're paying for what?

Want a few hundred bucks? Keeping hold of money you don’t have to spend in the first place could net you an extra payday.

After reading this article, spend about five minutes making changes, and you’ll save hundreds of dollars a year. Sound good?

Megamoney down the drain

People throw money away every single day.

They toss a few bucks at an ATM to get cash and lose a few more thanks to a late fee on a neglected bill. Meanwhile, overlooked services siphon off funds on a monthly basis. Drip, drop.

The little losses don’t hurt at the time, but they add up. Last year, Americans paid over $6 billion dollars in overdraft and ATM fees to Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase alone.

But what can you do about it?

Patching up the unnoticed holes in your bank account is easier than you might think. Here’s how you can put a stop to expenses that drain hundreds of dollars a year from your fellow Americans.

1) Just say no to bank fees

Average ATM fees have grown from $1.75 per transaction in 2007 to $4.52 in 2016. Banks have even found a way to take a bite out of government assistance. In 2012, Californians paid $19 million in ATM fees just to access their EBT food and cash benefits. That’s enough to buy a full year of school supplies for 20% of the state’s K-12 students.

Who’s raking in all that cash? JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo, to name a few. And yes, those are the same “Big Four” banks that paid into the National Mortgage Settlement –the second largest civil settlement in U.S. history– for their unlawful parts in the 2010 foreclosure crisis. For some reason, customers stay faithful. With over 245 million accounts, these four banks control a huge portion of American personal wealth.

But you don’t have to suffer from their predatory practices. If you’re getting stung at the ATM, for overdrafting, or for not parking enough cash in specific accounts, consider switching to a bank that won’t charge you fees.

Could it be that simple?

Well, check out an account with Simple or Capital One 360– you’ll never be charged a minimum balance, and they even cover some overdrafts. There’s a range of free checking accounts with minimal fees, and this tool from Magnify Money can help you find one that’s local to you.

Or better yet, check out your local credit unions. Many offer access to the extensive, fee-free CO-OP ATM network, and some even waive out-of-network ATM fees. The Credit Union National Association estimates that credit union members saved $8.5 billion last year simply by using credit unions instead of banks. Credit unions are renowned for lower fees and more personalized service than big banks, which is probably why 3.7 million Americans joined one last year.

2) Use free apps to make life easier

Get your smartphone out, because there are free apps that do everything from pay your bills to summon roadside assistance.  Welcome to the future.

Stop spending so much time paying your bills

Thanks to Prism’s smart notifications, you’ll never pay a late fee again. With a few taps and a swipe, you tell Prism how much to pay and when– no need to log into individual biller websites ever again. It somehow makes paying my bills –dare I say it?– fun. And while you’re having fun saving money, get Digit– it uses predictive algorithms to transfer small amounts of cash from your checking account to a savings account. There are unlimited transfers, no fees, and a no-overdraft guarantee. It’s the perfect way to save more money without thinking about it.

Roadside Assistance
Stop paying annual dues for roadside assistance

AAA has dominated the field of roadside assistance for decades. But the annual dues paid by its 55.6 million members (some individual plans exceed the $100 mark) may soon make it a thing of the past. Enter Urgent.ly, the on-demand roadside service app with no annual dues or membership fees. It’s available 24 hours a day, everywhere in America, and it offers flat fees ($75 for most common issues, $99 for a tow of up to 10 miles) and singular features like accident alerts and service tracking for family members.

Stop paying to monitor your credit

A recent study by NerdWallet revealed that American households with debt owe an average of $130,922. According to a spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, individuals who seek their financial counseling have an average of six credit cards. The last thing someone with that much debt and that many credit cards needs is to spend money on credit monitoring, but it happens a lot. In fact, credit monitoring services constitute four of the top five services cancelled through the Truebill subscription management app.

Fortunately, CreditKarma offers credit scores along with credit reports and monitoring, all for free. While you’re getting yours, check out their tools and approachable advice that help you do everything from pick a credit card to buy a home.

Get identity theft insurance for free

The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that in 2014, 17.6 million people in the U.S. fell victim to identity theft. According to the most recent data available, it’s a $24.7 billion dollar problem even before you factor in the time those 17.6 million victims spent dealing with the aftermath. The Department of Justice knows how bad it is, as made painfully clear by this anecdote on their website:

In one notorious case of identity theft, the criminal, a convicted felon, not only incurred more than $100,000 of credit card debt, obtained a federal home loan, and bought homes, motorcycles, and handguns in the victim’s name, but called his victim to taunt him…

Don’t stop being careful, but stop paying for identity theft insurance right away. Civic offers identity theft alerts, fraud support, and $1 million dollars worth of identity theft insurance for life, all without charging a monthly fee like most credit monitoring services.

Stop paying commissions to invest

The price of entry to the world of investment is prohibitive to many, but that’s all about to change, thanks to Robinhood. Traditional brokerages charge commissions on each trade and require minimum deposits of at least $500, but Robinhood rejects both. Smart notifications and real-time market data help you maximize your portfolio’s performance, and the app’s sleek look and ease of use make doing so a breeze.

With these tools, you can’t avoid saving money

Bank fees and other unnecessary expenses can feel unavoidable at times, but they’re not trifles to be ignored– your losses could amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, there are easy, manageable steps you can take. Switch to a bank that’s not out to penalize you and cut your costs with free apps. Before you know it, you’ll put the stress of unwanted fees behind you.

5 Tips to Get the Most Out of This Summer

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Summertime is a state of mind.

It’s the sun on your face, the pep in your step, the bring-it-on of late nights and good times, the dawning of exciting new possibilities.

The first day of summer happens when you switch from have-to to get-to, so kickstart your get-to with these goals leading to summery goodness.

1) Drink better coffee

Ah, coffee, that beautiful, fragrant source of motivation. It’s delicious, it’s comforting, and studies show that it may improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression (by the way, decaf offers the same health benefits). Whether you like it hot or prefer to make your own cold brew the easy way, there’s so much to love.

Better Coffee

Well, your perfect morning has arrived, thanks to the team behind MistoBox. Pick a coffee style and delivery schedule (1-4 deliveries per month), and you’ll start every day with impressive, freshly-roasted coffee. Three price tiers cover the gamut of coffee drinkers, from those who just need their daily kick to those looking for the best of the small-batch best.

2) Get outside and exercise

There’s no doubt about it: exercise is a miracle drug hiding among us. It boosts brainpower, melts stress, and makes you feel great. Maybe that’s why 81% of millennials say they exercise on a regular basis.

Summer 4

Staying fit doesn’t have to feel like a chore. There’s camaraderie in the air– millennials are more drawn to exercise centered around working together than competing against each other. Groups like cycling, aerobics, and dance are more popular than ever, and there are over 50,000 athletic apps to help you track and share your activities.

Did you know the National Park Service turns 100 this year? If you’re looking for more relaxing outdoor exercise, use this handy tool to pick someplace beautiful and join the 40 million Americans going camping this year. Whether you sleep in a tent or a cabin or under a sky full of stars, you’ll be breathing fresh air, listening to birdsong, and banishing stress.

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There are 59 national parks across the country and a whopping 6,624 state parks. The oldest among them is majestic Niagara Falls State Park (est. 1885), but modern campgrounds are getting all kinds of upgrades –from better bathrooms to free Wi-Fi– so don’t assume that outdoors means offline. That’s up to you.

3) Try foods from around the world

Nothing rivals the adventure of leaving the country. Every detail is different from what everyday life conditions you to expect, from the bustle of the downtown streets to the tempting aromas of unknown dishes.

But if your summer budget doesn’t include get-off-a-plane-and-bust-out-the-map traveling, you can bring the world to you on the cheap.

Foods are an integral part of every culture and a great place to start exploring.

Ever try a strawberry Giant Caplico from Japan or crunchy yuca Biscoito de Polvilho from Brazil? How about “mouth quivering” Ghost Pops from South Africa? Yeah, me neither. Snack boxes from Treats have you sampling goodies from a new country each month. Want to stay in one place for a while? Aloha Crate brings the Hawaiian vibe, and if you’re curious about Japan’s mind-blowing snack scene, definitely check out Snakku.

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4) Automate your finances

Don’t let managing your finances become a dark cloud that follows you through the summer. Invest the spare change from your daily transactions with Acorns. Choose one of five portfolio profiles –from conservative to aggressive– and Acorns will invest for you using “round-ups” (for example, if you buy a latte for $3.25, Acorns will take an additional 75¢ and invest it). Paribus is a free service that gets you cash back whenever retailers drop prices on purchases you make online or forget to apply coupon codes. Make sure you’re not paying for services you don’t want with Truebill’s free online tool.  It shows you all of your recurring charges and lets you cancel any of them with a single click. No more waiting on hold to cancel that pesky Wi-Fi hotspot subscription you forgot about!

5) PARTY, PARTY, PARTY!!!

Summer is the perfect time to make new friends, keep the old, and celebrate with every single one of them. There’s a million ways to party, but you can’t go wrong sticking to the basics: good food, drinks, and some tunes to shake your booty to.

Want some help? Let’s start by whetting your whistle.

Summer wine parties are easy to throw, but lots of people are intimidated when picking bottles at the store by rack upon rack of unknown quantities.

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Rest easy– you’ve got a friend in Vinebox. Nestled inside each sleek, magnetically-sealed box are three wines from boutique wineries across Europe. You’ll get a glass of each –packaged in glass vials that are elegant and a touch futuristic– along with tasting notes, recommended food pairings, and the stories behind the wines. The wines are all limited production, so when you (inevitably) fall in love with one, tell Vinebox right away so you can get a full bottle… or ten.

For anyone worried about party food, a word of advice: skewers. They’re low-mess, easy to stroll around with, and they only require one hand. For a perfect wine party accompaniment, try this summery spin on a classic Italian appetizer: Peach Caprese Skewers.

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What you’ll need: fresh peaches, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, some balsamic vinegar, and skewers. Assemble the skewers by alternating chunks of peach and mozzarella with basil leaves folded in half. To punch up the flavors a notch, drizzle the skewers lightly with balsamic reduction. It’s easy to make– stir a cup of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan over the lowest heat until it reduces by half.

Now that you’ve got stellar wines and appetizers, grab some speakers and pick a playlist: keep it chill with Brazilian samba and bossa nova, get your retro on with the best of the 70s and 80s, or stick with this summer’s biggest hits.

Well, cheers to an unforgettable summer! I could keep singing summer’s praises, but I think I’ll let the poet William Carlos Williams take us out instead.

“In summer, the song sings itself.”

4 Strategies to Pay off Your Debt Quickly

debt mountain

The average American has over $15,000 in credit card debt and 40 million people in the United States also have student loans. If you combine individuals’ credit card and student loan balances, their debt often outpaces their income, sometimes dramatically. College graduates have an average salary of $48,707 right out of school, meaning that their debt payments eat up a big chunk of their monthly income; many end up using 20 percent or more of their paycheck for debt payments. That leaves little money left over to pay for other essentials, like rent, transportation or groceries.

That hefty debt burden can really limit you, holding you back from building an emergency fund, moving to another city, buying a car or purchasing your first home. Carrying a large balance can weigh you down and make you feel stuck in a job you do not enjoy or in an apartment that is overpriced. It’s also very risky; one emergency, like an unexpected car repair or medical bill, and your cash reserve is wiped out. Taking charge of your debt and getting rid of the balance can give you an enormous sense of freedom and give you financial security.

If you feel like you are drowning in debt and have no idea how to pay it off, use these strategies to get a handle on your debt and minimize how much you pay in interest:

  1. Pay the highest interest debt first: While it might be tempting to tackle your lowest balance first to get it out of the way, that approach can end up costing you a lot of money in unnecessary interest costs. Instead, order your debt by interest rate, and tackle the highest interest rate first. Pay as much as you can above the minimum payment towards the high-interest debt and keep up minimum payments on the lower interest account. For instance, let’s say you have a student loan at 6.8 percent and a credit card with 12.99 percent interest. Regardless of the balance on either account, you should focus on the credit card first because of its high interest By doing so, you’ll pay off the debt more quickly, but also save yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest.Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 3.22.02 PM
  2. Use balance transfers: If you have a high-interest credit card—some can be as high as 30 percent—and you are confident you can pay off your balance in a few months, transferring the card balance to a new card with a zero interest promotional offer can be a smart move. Then, all of your payments go towards the principal instead of interest, helping you pay it off faster and saving you money.
  1. Automatically use windfalls: If you have any unexpected windfalls, such as a work bonus, a raise or a present from a loved one, skip blowing it on rewards or more stuff. Instead, consider all extra money you get as money that immediately goes towards debt. As soon as any unexpected cash comes your way, automatically make a payment on your credit cards or student loans. Over time, these small extra payments add up, knocking months or even years off your repayment term and saving you money in interest as a result.Student Loan Refinance
  2. Refinance student loans: Depending on what kind of loans you took out, your student loans could have interest rates as high as eight percent. However, that does not mean you are stuck paying that rate for the next ten years. Instead, you can go through a private company and refinance your student loans, getting you a much lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment. By refinancing, you can get an interest rate as low as 2.15 percent, saving thousands over the term of your loan. And by bringing down the interest rate, you will have more money each month to put towards your high-interest debt, such as your credit card balance. This strategy is an excellent way to bring down the total you pay back over time while accelerating paying down your debt.

Coping with a mountain of student loan and credit card debt can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. It can make you feel hopeless, overwhelmed and like you’ll never get free of your debt. However, there are ways to manage your balances, bring down your interest rates and save money. By following these tips, you can start making real progress on paying down your debt and begin freeing yourself from huge balances. With careful planning, strategically using balance transfers and refinancing your loans to a lower interest rate, you can save thousands of dollars and become debt-free.

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7 Ways To Put a Few Extra $20’s in Your Wallet

7 Ways To Put a Few Extra $20’s in Your Wallet

Wouldn’t it be great to open your wallet and find a few extra twenties in there? Turns out it’s surprisingly easy to manage, and you can do it by improving your life instead of making huge sacrifices.

Here are eight things you can do today to ensure your greenery sticks around.

Truebill savings

  1. Put a few extra twenties in your wallet

I know, I know, the title. But I’m not going for sarcasm– carrying cash can save you money!

Sometimes, you’re walking down the street and a burrito mojado just calls out your name. Or maybe it’s the bartender telling you cash only. Well, who wants to buy their cash from a cheap ATM in the corner? $3 and $4 ATM fees add up quick. Keep a twenty or two handy, and save yourself from choosing between the fees and a long hike to your bank’s nearest ATM.

You don’t even need to make an extra trip to get those twenties. Next time you use your card in a store, use the cash back option. Fee-free twenties? Check.

  1. Clean out your closet

Unless you’re Marie Kondo (in which case, thanks for helping me clean my room!), you’ve probably accumulated things that you don’t need. Clothes are an easy target. Pick a day to go through your clothes and gather the ones you don’t like or wear anymore. Then trade them in for cash or store credit at a fashion resale retailer like Buffalo Exchange. Voila! You’ve got a cleaner closet and a fatter wallet.

Trade

  1. Cancel subscriptions you don’t use

Have you ever signed up for in-flight wifi only to find out six months later that you never stopped paying for it? Some companies out there try to trap customers into recurring charges, but it’s also easy to simply forget to cancel services when you no longer need them.

Truebill’s easy-to-use app instantly shows you your recurring charges and lets you cancel anything you don’t want with a single click. Over 25% of users cancel a subscription through the service, saving an average of $512 per year. Not bad for a free service.

Truebill Dashboard

  1. Hit the library

Libraries are dedicated to providing as much value as possible for free, from books and academic databases to magazines and more. The New Yorker is $7.99 an issue and the Wall Street Journal is $3.00, but you can read them and many more in the quiet of your well-lit local library any time.

These days, you don’t even have to leave your bed to reap library benefits. Netflix costs $8.99 a month to stream videos and Audible’s audiobooks will run you $14.95 a month, but your library account won’t charge a dime for videos, audiobooks, comics, books, and more accessible right on your phone, tablet, or computer.

  1. Get fit

Whether you’re young or old, outgoing or shy, you have affordable options for getting and staying fit. The adventurous set have their open water swims and bouldering clubs, but there’s also gentle water aerobics and free tai chi by the beach. Bored by routine? Triathlon clubs like Golden Gate TC are high value and a great way to mix it up while meeting people. Can’t take things so seriously? Join a hash run. They’re a boisterous good time… participants sometimes refer to as “a drinking club with a running problem.”

Pushups

However you do it, exercising is a great way to spend time instead of money. The New York Times just featured a vast British study that called exercise a “miracle cure,” pointing to study after study that shows even small amounts of exercise bring “global improvements in health across a range of conditions.” In the long-term, you’re gaining a lot more than a few twenties in your wallet.

  1. Cook for a crowd

Home cooking is easy! It’s healthier, less expensive, and (with practice) tastier than eating out. And as long as you’re making a dinner, why not make a bunch extra and freeze portions for later? You’ll be much less likely to eat out once you’ve given yourself the option of a scrumptious, heat-and-serve meal.

  1. Invite your friends over

And now that you’ve cooked a bunch extra, why not invite some of your favorite people over to eat it with you? Going out for dinner or a show and drinks can decimate your “fun” budget in no time, but when you have people over, you minimize expenses and share the savings.

And there you have it.

bbq

With some exercise, your local library, and a little help from your friends, you’ll be putting some extra twenties in your wallet in no time. Saving money isn’t so bad after all!

 

This post originally appeared on One Smart Dollar.

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Five Creative Ways to Save Money in the New Year

Being frugal gets a bad rap these days, and while clutching one’s money like a paranoid miser is certainly off-putting it couldn’t hurt for any of us to be a little more careful with our finances in 2016. New Year’s resolutions are inevitable after all, and while you’re dusting off your Stairmaster or reconnecting with acquaintances from your trip to Denmark, now is also the perfect time to start saving your money.

The simple fact is, when it comes to personal finance advise like, “ask yourself, do I really need that?” usually fails, so I would like to share some more creative and effective ways to hold on to one’s dough in 2016.

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