Money and Finance Articles

Learn to live a life of financial freedom and browse money-saving tips and tricks to stretch your dollar further than ever before. Browse dozens of great articles, hundreds of tips, and full tutorials to take control of your pocketbook!

From Simple Tips to Develop a Saver’s Attitude to understanding the difference between Paying Down or Paying Ahead to understanding When and Why to Give your Kids an Allowance, we have articles covering every money and finance question you have!

You can do it, we can help, and it starts with the articles here!

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How to Manage Money for College Freshmen and Others, Too

All around the country, newly-minted high school graduates will soon be heading off to college. They’ll be taking a lot of things with them, but statistics tell us that financial literacy is not likely to be one of them. If I could spend a little time with these awesome students, I’d attempt to cram the basics for how to manage money into their heads, then pray that it penetrates their hearts.

 

A diverse group of college freshmen who need to learn how to manage money

A budget is your friend

That means …

  1. You have a written plan for how you are going to spend and manage money
  2. You use that written plan like you would a road map, consulting it often and
  3. You use a site like Mint.com or a pencil and paper to record how you spend every nickel.

Sallie Mae has a monthly budget worksheet you can print out to help you estimate your costs and keep expenses under control. Do not attempt to do this “keeping track” thing in your head. You are amazing, but don’t push it.

Live with cash

Your generation has been somewhat brainwashed to believe that plastic is the only safe way to pay for things. That may be true if you buy things online, but overall it is just not true. Even then, there is a really cool way that you can shop on Amazon with cash. Let me show you here.

I don’t have the time or space to get into a long dissertation on the subject, just believe me when I tell you that using cash—currency, greenbacks, dollars, coins—will simplify your life and it will keep you from overspending.

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The Ugly Truth About No-Interest No-Payments Offers

Have you ever wondered how retailers can possibly afford to offer the no-interest, no-payments, no money down kind of deals you see advertised? That was the subject of a question I received recently.

Woman with hand to her chin wondering about no-interest no-payments retail offers

Dear Mary: There are several appliances, electronics, and furniture stores in our area that run television commercials offering nothing down, no-interest, no-payments until 2022. It sounds like I can just walk in and take what I want and not pay for three years! How do these companies really make money? Kate

Dear Kate: First, these offers are on approved credit and come with a lot of other fine print. You need pristine credit to qualify for those attractive terms.

Good luck qualifying

One retailer told me only about 25% of the people who apply for these amazing no-interest no-payments offers,  designed only to get buyers through the door, can actually qualify. The other 75% are offered some other deal with horrible terms. People often accept these terms because, by the time they fill out the paperwork, they’re so emotionally involved and have their hearts set on that “free” absolutely awesome deal, they’re anxious to sign anything.

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How to Store Important Documents and How Long To Keep Them

If the paper monster has you buried under an avalanche of receipts, bank statements, ATM slips, investment records, paycheck stubs, and bills—the good news is you can probably throw most of it away without worry when you have a simple record keeping routine.

But before you fire up the shredder, you need to know what to keep and for how long.

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Toss all you can

Monthly

Once you have recorded the amounts and reconciled your bank and credit card statements, you can shred ATM receipts, bank deposit slips, credit card receipts and sales receipts at the end of each month.

Exception: Keep receipts for purchases that may be tax deductible, those that involve a warranty and any item whose replacement cost exceeds the deductible on your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance.


MORE: Best Inexpensive Shredders


Yearly

Once you receive and reconcile your W-2 against your final pay stub you can toss your paycheck stubs for the year, along with monthly credit-card and mortgage statements, phone and utility bills and quarterly and monthly investment reports.

The same goes for other statements that detail the entire year’s activity on the final end-of-the-year statement.

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Top 10 Student Loan Tips for Recent Graduates—and Not So Recent, Too!

Whether you just graduated, you’re taking a break from school, or have already started repaying your student loans, these tips will help you keep your student loan debt under control.

 

Recent graduate stressed confused worried by student loan debt

By “under control” I’m talking about

  • avoiding fees and extra interest costs
  • keeping your payments affordable
  • protecting your credit rating
  • paying those loans in full as quickly as possible

If you’re having trouble finding a job or keeping up with your payments, there’s vitally important information here for you, too.

1. Know your loans

It’s crucial that you keep track of the lender, balance and repayment status for each of your student loans. These details determine your options for loan repayment and possibilities for forgiveness.

If you’re not sure, ask your lender or visit NSLDS.ed.gov. You can log in and see the loan amounts, lender(s), and repayment status for all of your federal loans.

In the event that some of your loans aren’t listed, they’re probably private (non-federal) loans. For those, try to find a recent billing statement or the original paperwork that you signed. Contact your school if you can’t locate any records.

2. Know your grace period

Different loans have different grace periods. A grace period is the amount of time between leaving school before you must make your first payment.

It’s six months for federal Stafford loans, but nine months for federal Perkins loans.

(Under federal law, the authority for schools to make new Perkins Loans ended on Sept. 30, 2017, and final disbursements were permitted through June 30, 2018. As a result, students can no longer receive Perkins Loans.)

For the federal parent or PLUS loans, there is no grace period. When payments begin depends on when the loans were issued (see details).

The grace periods for private student loans vary, so consult your paperwork or contact your lender to find out. Don’t miss your first payment.

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Shopping With Cash is Still the Best Way to Save Money

When did you last hold a $50 bill in your hand? The new ones look strange … faintly colored, graphically random.

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You should pick one up some time to reacquaint yourself with something called U.S. currency. Look closely. It still reads: This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.

Here’s my question: Does pumping my own gasoline at Costco constitute a debt, either public or private?

Between the moment my gas tank is full and the moment I actually pay for the gas, I owe Costco some money. I have incurred a momentary debt, and it seems to me I should be able to pay it with my U.S. currency.

Just try. In fact, at Costco filling stations my only choice is to pay with plastic—even though there are plenty of human attendants readily available.

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Weird Ways to Earn Money on the Side

Recently, while brainstorming with a reader who needed to supplement her regular full-time job, I made a quick list of the ways I’ve done that in my life. I wanted to help her discover what she does well that others might pay her to do for them. 

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Process Server

I worked as an independent process server for a company that attorneys hire to have subpoenas delivered in their civil cases. Whenever I had a couple of hours to spare, I’d pop into the office, pick up a stack of subpoenas and head out to attempt to “serve” unsuspecting defendants in civil lawsuits.

My mission was to locate the defendant then address the said person by name (Laura … Laura Smith?). By law, I was required to make sure I had eye contact, wait for that look of “knowing” and then hand off the document. Even if the person refused it, turning to walk (run) away, I could legally assert that I had completed the mission.

The best part? I got paid $35 per attempt to serve. That means if I knocked on the door and no one was home, attempt complete and back into the stack that document would go for a future attempt.

I could easily “attempt to serve” two or three subpoenas per hour. The attorney service company I worked for loved me because I was available at odd times, like late at night or early on a Saturday.

Process servers are legally required to serve papers in the correct manner laid out by their state. Process serving laws differ by state. But basically, if you are an adult, have not been convicted of a crime and can engage strangers in a warm and friendly way, it’s possible that you too could be a process server in your spare time.

Piano Teacher

I got started young at age 15 as a student teacher in a music academy. I loved it—not so much the teaching, but the $5 per lesson. My little students did well and soon I was teaching on my own, at home after school.

Teaching piano lessons was the way I paid my way through college. At one point I had 72 students, giving  30-minute individual and group lessons per week. Read more

10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Gasoline Cost

Only a few months ago I paid $1.75 a gallon for gas in Thornton, Colo. That’s nearly a dollar cheaper than I paid this past week at the same location—$2.72 per gallon! What’s going on?

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AAA  blames the increase partially on a drop in fuel supply from oil refineries. As a reulst, experts say prices are likely to keep climbing this summer, so drivers will have to be strategic to manage their fuel costs.

To save a gallon of gas, you need to cut about 22 miles of driving from your week. Here are 10 easy ways to do that:

1. Hop on the bus, Gus

Even if you think this is not an option for you, check out PublicTransportation.org. You may be surprised by all the options that you have never considered. Or carpool. Leaving the car at home and sharing your commute occasionally can help you reach your gallon-goal quickly. Sharing the ride—and expense—with another person regularly can cut your gas costs in half. Check out your carpooling opportunities at the eRide Share app, eRideShare.com.

2. Take it easy

The faster you drive, the more gas you use. If your average commute includes 20 miles of highway time and you drive it at 60 mph instead of 70 mph, it will take you only three minutes longer to get there, and you’ll save approximately 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week.

3. Trip-chain

Need to pick up a prescription, mail a package and go to the bank? Instead of spreading these tasks out over a few trips, chain them together by doing all of them at one time. Park in a central spot and walk from place to place. Read more

5 Reasons to Give Kids an Allowance

At the foundation of your children’s financial intelligence should be this undeniable truth: It is not the amount of money you have, but what you do with it that matters.

This is true for a child managing a $5-dollar-a-week allowance or a corporate executive with a $5,000-dollar-a-week salary.

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For the better part of my life, I didn’t know this truth. On the contrary, I believed that more money was the answer. I was convinced that if we just made more money, won the lottery, or received some unexpected inheritance, all of our money problems would vanish. But the more we made the worse our problems became. Because I didn’t know how to manage what we had, more would have never been enough. We didn’t save, we didn’t give, we didn’t plan, and we had no idea where all the money went.

Unless your children learn simple, wise money management techniques, more money will never be enough.

The simplest way to get started building financial intelligence into your kids’ minds and hearts is by putting them on an allowance and then requiring them to suffer or enjoy the consequences of their financial decisions.

Here are five good reasons to put kids on an allowance program:

1. Teaches kids about real life

Nothing beats an allowance for a hands-on course in values. Having their own money teaches them about responsibility, consequences, saving and charity.

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