The Half Payment Budget Method Explained

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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.

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Source: pennypinchinmom.com

How an Employer 401(k) Match Works

Man at desk on tablet

Whether your retirement plans involve writing your memoir from a lovely little seaside cottage, a heated game of bocce against your (*ahem* sore loser) neighbor, or hitting up every farmers market in a 50-mile radius, a 401(k) is one savings strategy you can use to save money to get you there.

Simply put, a 401(k) is a mechanism for saving retirement funds by making pre-tax contributions through deductions from payroll. Some plans offer a 401(k) employer match, which can be the equivalent of getting “free money” from an employer.

A Quick Breakdown on 401(k) Plans

A 401(k) is an investment plan many employers offer their employees as a way to save for retirement. Employees can contribute either a percentage of or predetermined amount from each paycheck and, in some cases, the contributions can be matched by the employer up to a certain amount.

These deferred wages, also called “elective deferrals,” aren’t typically subject to federal income tax withholding, and are not listed as taxable income on the employee’s annual return.

If someone is self-employed, they can contribute to a one participant 401(k) plan plan with the same rules and requirements as an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. Similarly, 457(b) plans can be used for public sector employees, and 403(b) plans for public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations.

Advantages of Participating in a 401(k)

A few advantages to participating in a 401(k) :

1. Investment gains and elective deferrals to 401(k) plans are not subject to federal income tax until they’re distributed, which is typically when:

•   The participant reaches the age of 59½
•   The participant becomes disabled, deceased, or otherwise has a severance from employment
•   The plan terminates and no subsequent plan is established by the employer
•   The participant incurs a financial hardship

2. Elective deferrals are 100% vested. The participant owns 100% of the money in their account, and the employer cannot take it back or forfeit it for any reason.

3. Participants choose how to invest their 401(k). The plans are mainly self-directed, meaning participants decide how they’d like to invest the money in their account. This could mean mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) which invests in a wide array of sectors and companies, but typically doesn’t include investing in individual companies and stocks.

Investment tactics might vary from person to person, but by understanding their goals, investors can decide whether their portfolio will have time to withstand market ups and downs with some high-risk, high-reward investments, or if they should shift to a more conservative allocation as they come closer to retirement.

What About 401(k) Vesting Schedules?

“Vesting ” means “ownership” in a retirement plan. The employee will vest, or own, some percent of their account balance. In the case of a 401(k), being 100% vested means they’ve met their employer’s vesting schedule requirements to ensure complete ownership of their funds.

Vesting schedules, determined by 401(k) plan documents, can lay out certain employer vesting restrictions that range from immediate vesting to 100% vesting after three years to a schedule that increases the vested percentage based on years of service. Either way, all employees must be 100% vested if a plan is terminated by the employer or upon reaching the plan’s standard retirement age.

How Does a 401(k) Match Work?

A 401(k) match is an employee benefit that allows an employer to contribute a certain amount to their employee’s 401(k) plan. The match can be based on a percentage of the employee’s contribution, up to a certain portion of their total salary or a set dollar amount, depending on the terms of the plan.

Not all employers offer this benefit, and some have prerequisites for participating in the match, such as a minimum required contribution or a cap up to a certain amount.

Meeting with an HR representative or a benefits administrator is a one way to get a better idea of what’s possible. Learning the maximum percent of salary the company will contribute is a start, then the employee can set or increase their contribution accordingly to maximize the employer match benefit.

Benefits of a 401(k) Employer Match

According to a report from Fidelity Investments , the average employer 401(k) match reached a record high of 4.7% in 2019 and “boosted the average total savings rate to an all-time high of 13.5%.”

Many employees are taking advantage of this benefit. Some reasons they could benefit:

It’s Basically “Free Money”

An employer match is one part of the overall compensation package and another way to maximize the amount of money an employer pays their employees. Those employees could be turning their backs on free money by not contributing to an employer-matched 401(k) plan.

Reducing Taxable Income

According to FINRA , “with pre-tax contributions, every dollar you save will reduce your current taxable income by an equal amount, which means you will owe less in income taxes for the year. But your take-home pay will go down by less than a dollar.”

If a participant contributed $1,500 a year to a 401(k), they’d only owe taxes on their current salary minus that amount, which could save some serious money as that salary grows.

The Most Common Employer Match Formulas

Not all employer matches are created equal.

According to a recent report from Vanguard , “How America Saves,” among the 150 distinct match formulas administered through their employer-matched 401(k) plans in 2018:

•  70% of plans used a single-tier match formula, with the most commonly cited being $0.50 on the dollar on the first 6% of pay.
•  21% of plans used multi-tier match formulas, e.g., dollar-on-dollar on the first 3% of pay and $0.50 on the dollar on the next 2% of pay.

A Sample Employer Match 401(k) Scenario

For the sake of breaking a few things down, here’s a retirement saving scenario that can illuminate how 401(k) matching works in real life:

Let’s say a person is 30 years old, with a salary of $50,000, contributing 3% of their salary (or $1,500) to a 401(k). Let’s also say they keep making $50,000 and contributing 3% every year until they’re 65. They will have put $52,500 into their 401(k) in those 35 years.

Now let’s say they opt into an employer match with a dollar-for-dollar up to 3% formula. Putting aside the likelihood of an increase in the value of the investments, they’ll have saved $105,000— with $52,500 in free contributions from their employer.

That’s a no-cost way to increase retirement savings by 100%.

How Much Should a Participant Contribute?

The average 401(k) employee contribution amount, according to Fidelity , reached a record level of $2,370 in 2019. Still, there’s no across-the-board amount that will work for everyone.

When deciding how much to contribute to a 401(k) plan, many factors might be considered to take advantage of a unique savings approach:

•   If a company offers a 401(k) employer match, the participant might consider contributing enough to meet whatever the minimum match requirements are.
•   If a participant is closer to retirement age, they’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what they already have saved and what they need to reach their retirement goals. An increase in contributions can make a difference, and maxing out their 401(k) might be a solid strategy.

A retirement calculator can also be helpful in determining what the right contribution amount is for a specific financial situation.

Are There 401(k) Contribution Limits?

In addition to the uncertainty that can come with choosing how much to contribute to a 401(k), there’s the added pressure of potential penalties for going over the maximum 401(k) contribution limit.

Three common limits to 401(k) contributions :

1. Elective deferral limits: Contribution amounts chosen by an employee and contributed to a 401(k) plan by the employer. In 2020, participants can contribute up to $19,500.

2. Catch-up contribution limits: After the age of 50, participants can contribute more to their 401(k) with catch-up contributions. In 2020, participants can make up to $6,500 in catch-up contributions.

3. Employer contribution limits: An employer can also make contributions and matches to a 401(k). The combined limit (not including catch-up contributions) on employer and employee contributions in 2020 is $57,000.

If participants think their total deferrals will exceed the limit for that particular year, the IRS recommends notifying the plan to request the difference (an “excess deferral ”) “be paid out of any of the plans that permit these distributions. The plan must then pay the employee that amount by April 15 of the following year (or an earlier date specified in the plan).”

Getting Started With Investing

Real, human advisors are a great outlet for discussing financial situations and potentially finding a retirement planning strategy that works for each investor (remember that beachside cottage?).

Opening a SoFi Invest® account lets you get started with as little as $1 and comes with complimentary access to financial advisors who are held to the highest fiduciary standards, meaning they’re required to act on your best interests. Try an exploratory conversation at no cost.

Start saving for retirement with SoFi Invest.



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How to Make Tough Decisions as a Couple

Marnie and Tom live in a nice suburb in the Midwest with their two young children. Marnie’s mother, Elaine, lives about an hour away.

When the kids were babies, Marnie's mother used to drive to Marnie and Tom's every day to see her grandkids and help out. But lately, Marnie's mother's health has been declining, so she can’t drive over anymore.

One day Marnie gets an idea: What if she and Tom sell their house and move closer to her mother? Then the kids would be able to see their grandmother more often. Plus, Marnie would be able to keep a closer eye on her mother in case her health gets worse. Seems like a perfect solution.

There’s only one problem—Tom doesn’t want to move. Tom likes the neighborhood they’re in. He thinks he and Marnie paid too much for their house, but other than that he’s very comfortable.

Tom says no.

Tough decisions and zero-sum situations

Faced with big decisions like this, a couple will ordinarily try to compromise. But in this case, there’s really no half-way. Economists call this kind of thing a zero-sum situation. Someone’s going to win, and someone’s going to lose.

For over thirty years, I’ve watched couples struggle with zero-sum problems. Some more successfully, and some less so.

Some classic zero-sum problems for couples involve whether or not to move—often for one partner’s career—and whether or not to have another child. But there are lots of others.    

For thirty years, I’ve watched couples struggle with zero-sum problems. Some more successfully, and some less so. Today, we’re going to talk about what works, and what doesn’t, when you’re faced with one of these situations.

Three ways not to make tough decisions as a couple

 First, let’s talk first about what doesn’t work. There are three main approaches that don’t work. Unfortunately, most couples try all three:

Mistake #1 – Trying to convince your partner they'll be better off

The first mistake is to try to convince your partner that they’ll be much happier if they do things your way. In Marnie’s case, this might involve demonstrating to Tom all the wonderful things about the neighborhood she'd like to move to. Wouldn't Tom be better off there? 

No one likes to be told they’ll be happier if they just do things your way.

 Here’s the problem: No one likes to be told they’ll be happier if they just do things your way. It's better to assume each person has good reasons for feeling the way they do. And that those reasons aren’t likely to change. In couples therapy, we call this "staying in your own lane."

Mistake #2 – Suggesting there's something wrong with your parnter for disagreeing

The second thing that doesn’t work is to suggest there’s something wrong with your partner. Otherwise, they'd see it your way. If only they were less anxious, less obsessive-compulsive, less oppositional, less stuck in their ways, or less damaged by unresolved childhood trauma. Then they’d surely agree with you!

A lot of people get sent to my office for therapy by their spouses for just this reason. Believe me when I tell you, it doesn’t work.

A lot of people get sent to my office for therapy by their spouses for just this reason. Believe me when I tell you, it doesn’t work. It usually just leads to a lot of bad feeling.

Mistake #3 – Appealing to your partner's love

The third thing that doesn’t work is to appeal to your partner’s love and insist that if they really love you as much as they say they do, they’ll give you what you want. Almost every couple tries this.

Marnie is no exception.

“Tom,” she says, one night as they're getting ready for bed, “Don’t you see how I can’t sleep at night worrying about my mother? I can't stop thinking about how she’s missing out on so much of our kids’ lives. Can’t you see what this is doing to me? Don’t you love me?”

 “The answer’s still no,” says Tom. “And it has nothing to do with whether I love you or not.”

I'd be inclined to agree. Just because you love someone, that doesn't mean you're responsible for giving them everything they want. 

A better way to make tough decisions as a couple

The good news is there’s a much better method. There are three steps involved.

Step One:  Let’s make a deal

In business, this would be a no-brainer, right?  You’d never ask someone to give you something you want for free. Instead, you’d find out what their price is.  

In marriage, it’s the same thing. The main question is: What’s going to motivate the other person to do a deal?

Let’s see what happens when Marnie tries this approach.

One night in bed, just before they turn off the lights, Marnie turns over to face Tom.

“Tom, what can I give you to make you agree to move?” she asks.

Tom is silent.

“A promise to never complain ever again about you watching TV?”

Tom smiles. “It’s going to cost a lot more than that,” he says.

Marnie thinks some more. “How about if I agree to spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family?”

Tom shakes his head. But now Marnie has the idea. She’s not asking for favors anymore. She just wants to do this deal.         

“I'll do all the cooking and cleanup three times a week,” she says. "And we spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family."  

Tom raises an eyebrow. Now he knows she's serious. "Let me think about it,” he says, and turns off the light.

Time for Step Two.

Step Two:  The $64,000 Question

The following night, Tom is sitting at his laptop paying bills. Suddenly it hits him. “Marnie,” he says, “I think I see a way to do this. If we’re going to move, let’s get a smaller house and start saving money again. What do you think?”    Marnie’s actually been hoping for a bigger house. It’s painful to hear that this is what Tom wants. But hey, now he’s named his price. That means he’s in the game.

To me, this looks promising. Marnie gets something she wants very much. And she pays for it, fair and square. Same thing on Tom’s side.

Marnie thinks for a minute.  

“Let’s see what we can find,” she says.

Step Three: The Price is Right

Now comes the fun part.

The following Sunday, Marnie and Tom drop the kids off with her mother and start house-hunting in earnest. After a few weekends, they find a house they both like well enough. It breaks Marnie’s heart to be downsizing, but it was the only way to make things work. And it helps that once they find a place Tom likes, Marnie gets him to agree to new cabinets and closets.

Decision making builds strong relationships

 A good deal will have both of your dreams in it. That’s important, because it means you’re both fully in. You never know how a move like this is going to work out. If it goes well, you both share the satisfaction. If not, you share the blame.

A good deal will have both of your dreams in it.

One sign of a good deal is that in the end, neither of you got everything you wanted. The final result didn’t look exactly like what either of you originally had in mind.

But hey, isn’t that the case with anything creative? Eventually you have to face reality. And in a couple’s relationship, reality often takes the form of the person next to you in bed.

Sometimes life brings you to a fork in the road, where no compromise is possible. When that happens, assume you’ll need to do some serious deal-making—as if your relationship depended on it. Which in fact, it will.

Eventually, you have to face reality. And in a couple’s relationship, reality often takes the form of the person next to you in bed.

As Yogi Berra famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

In the long run, how you settle the issue may matter more than which fork you take.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

6 Signs Your Personal Finance Software Makes Life Easier

6 Signs Your personal finance software makes life easier

6 Signs Your Personal Finance Software Makes Life Easier

Finding personal finance software is easy, because there are countless choices in mobile apps, online programs, and finance software you can run on your home computer. But they’re certainly not equal. Personal finance software should make your life simpler, not more complicated, and it should be customizable for your particular life, goals, and needs. You know you’ve found great software when your financial life becomes easier over time. Here are 6 signs your personal finance software makes life easier.

1. You Haven’t Paid a Late Fee in Months

Does your personal finance software let you know in advance of when bills are due? It should be easy to set up automated alerts that tell you a few days before monthly, quarterly, or yearly bills are due, so you can take care of them and avoid annoying and guilt-inducing late fees. Ideally your software should notify you by text, so you’ll be sure and get the message whatever you’re doing and wherever you are.

2. Spending Categories Correspond to Your Actual Life

When personal finance software requires you to shoehorn your actual spending patterns into pre-set spending categories, the result can be confusion and frustration. Look for software that lets you create an unlimited number of spending categories you can customize. Do you buy your employees breakfast once a month? You can make a spending category for it. Are you a coffee or microbrew aficionado? You can make a spending category for it. Your budget should conform to your life, not the other way around.

3. You See How Trimming Budget Fat Affects Financial Goals

Sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it to hold back at the grocery store after a long day or when buying Christmas presents. But when your personal finance software shows you exactly how disciplined spending helps you achieve your financial goals, like a vacation or paying off a loan, it’s easy to avoid giving in to those little temptations you face every day. When you can see how your discipline pays off, you’re more likely to stick with your good habits.

Start now: Get budgeting software from Mint to help manage your finances and make everyday life simpler by clicking here.

4. You May Have Faced One or Two Painful Truths

Powerful personal finance software can tell you things like how much you spent on fast food last week, or how much you’ve paid in non-network ATM fees this month. Sometimes, getting control of your personal finances means facing some harsh truths, like how much those little extras add up to. Your software should also be able to tell you how much more quickly you can reach financial goals if you cut a certain dollar amount from various spending categories. It’s a great way to stay on track to your goals.

Meeting finance goals with personal finance software5. You Know Exactly How Close You Are to Meeting Financial Goals

Maybe you want to save for retirement, or build up a down payment on a home. Your personal finance software should show you exactly how close you are to your goal at any time. You should also be able to receive monthly emails that track your progress and see how your everyday spending decisions affect how much you’ll have left over at the end of the month. Don’t settle for software that doesn’t let you track your progress easily.

6. Your Personal Finance Software Goes With You Everywhere

Personal finance software that links your computer and your mobile devices empowers you to make smart spending choices anytime, anywhere. Thinking about buying an item you unexpectedly find on sale? You can check your account balances right on your phone and know instantly if you can afford it. You can also set up convenient alerts that can tell you right away such things as whether you’re approaching your credit limits on your credit cards.

Personal finance software has come a long way since the days you had to manually enter checkbook balances and draft amounts. Today’s software offers an astonishing array of features that not only help you achieve financial goals, but actually make your everyday life easier. And when it links your accounts to your computer and your mobile devices, like Mint does, you have all the budget tools you need, wherever you go.

Start now: Get budgeting software from Mint to help manage your finances and make everyday life simpler by clicking here.

The post 6 Signs Your Personal Finance Software Makes Life Easier appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

20 Cheap Home Decor Stores to Adorn Your Place for Less

Some moving costs — like truck rentals, security deposits or down payments — are obvious. The expense of decorating your new place can come as an afterthought. If you’ve already drained your bank account just to get the keys to your new address, don’t go into debt adorning your home to make it feel less […]

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Set a Realistic Budget for Christmas Shopping

The post How to Set a Realistic Budget for Christmas Shopping appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

INSIDE: Christmas shopping can easily get out of hand. Learn how to set a Christmas budget so you can make it a great one without doing into debt.

You need a budget, especially at Christmas. Here’s how to set a Christmas budget for your family that works!

To set a Christmas budget, decide what you can afford to spend this Christmas

Knowing how to set a Christmas budget comes down to what you can comfortably afford. How much money do you make per month? Now subtract all your expenses? How much is left over? How much of the leftovers do you feel comfortable putting towards gifts? 

There’s no magic number for exactly how much you should spend on Christmas. Each family has a different budget and different circumstances. But, be reasonable. Don’t go into debt in order to buy gifts.  

Once you’ve come up with a number that is right for you, write it down and stick to it. If you want to buy a family member something special but it’s over budget, then either wait for it to go on sale or come up with a new plan. And don’t be so hard on yourself.

Avoid falling for the “perfect Christmas myth.” Your kids will be okay if they don’t get every single thing on their list. Don’t go over budget because you’re trying to make the holidays perfect. And it’s never a bad idea to teach your kids about a holiday budget.

  • Pro tip: You can still have a magical Christmas on a budget — get our tips on How to Do Christmas on a Budget.

If your budget is lower than you want it to be, consider ways you can make more money for Christmas.

Our best tips for staying on budget this Christmas

In order to set a Christmas budget and stick with it, try these tips…

Keep gift-giving simple 

When it comes to my extended family we’ve been doing Secret Santa style gift swaps for years. Not only does this reduce the amount of money that you need to spend, but it also reduces the stress of trying to come up with a thoughtful gift for every uncle and cousin that you only see twice a year. 

Make a list and stick to it

Once you’ve decided on a gift-giving strategy then you’ll know exactly who to need to buy gifts for. Create a list of names and determine how much you can budget for each person. Based on your list you can start brainstorming gifts that align with your budget. 

Give experiences, not things 

If you’re having trouble deciding what to give people for Christmas remember, give experiences, not things. Experiences are more meaningful then things and the memories you create from a good experience can truly last a lifetime. Passes to a museum, amusement park, or a gift card to a fantastic restaurant are great gift ideas. 

How to save money on Christmas gifts to stay on budget 

Between gift-giving and holiday entertaining, Christmas can get expensive. That’s why you set a Christmas budget to begin with. But, in addition, here are some gift-giving tips to help you stay on budget:

Follow the four gift rule

When it comes to the act of gift-giving, keep it simple. There are a ton of super fun gift-giving strategies that allow you to celebrate the tradition of giving without spending a fortune. My kids are still young but we’ve started practicing the four gift rule which is: 

  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something you’ll wear
  • Something you’ll read

This is a great strategy to help keep you on budget while shopping for Christmas gifts. 

Give a gift card

Yes, you can argue that a gift card doesn’t qualify as a super thoughtful or meaningful gift. All I know is that I would prefer a gift card over an ugly sweater or smelly candle. Also, gift cards are a great way to stay on budget. All you have to do is pick an amount, or assign an amount that fits your budget. No waiting for a sale and no overspending necessary. 

Give a homemade gift for Christmas

Are you super artistic, an excellent baker, or a woodworking genius? Then consider giving a homemade gift to help you save money and stick to your Christmas budget.

There’s a reason why online marketplaces like Etsy are so popular. It’s because there’s a demand for beautiful homemade products. However, if the extent of your creativity involves a glue stick, macaroni, and glitter then perhaps this is not the budget-saving tip for you!

Advantages of shopping for Christmas all year 

If you’re a planner, this strategy could work for you. Although it’s strange to start to think about Christmas shopping in March or April, there are a lot of advantages when it comes to Christmas shopping all year, as opposed to saving it all for November or December. So, start celebrating Christmas in July and reap some of the financial and emotional benefits.

If you can wrap your head around the idea of shopping for Christmas gifts all year long then there are quite a few major advantages to doing it this way: 

It’s easier to stick to your Christmas budget

Can you even imagine the Christmas holidays without last-minute panic shopping? Even if you set a Christmas budget, it can easily get blown away when that happens.

When you break up your Christmas shopping over several months or even an entire year, you can make a plan. You can shop for items when you know they’re on sale, and you can take some time to save for things before making a purchase. This can help you avoid going into a ton of debt at Christmas time. 

According to a report by Statista titled, “U.S. Christmas Season,” the average American expects to spend $846 on Christmas gifts. If this seems accurate for you, then divide this by twelve months and you can set a ballpark budget of $70.50 per month. 

Early shopping means you can avoid the crowds 

While 64% of U.S. consumers purchase gifts online, many of us also find ourselves in a mall during the holidays. And, in my personal opinion, there is nothing worse than a crowded mall at Christmas. Everyone seems to be grumpy, in a rush, and deplete of holiday cheer. No thank you. 

It can result in more thoughtful Christmas gifts 

When you have a list of people you need to buy gifts for and months to do it you can take the time to come up with more thoughtful gifts. This is opposed to the regular last-minute shopping sprees where you are trying to think of something, anything that would make a decent present for your nephew or second cousin. 

It can make the holidays less stressful 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have some time to relax around the holidays? How would it feel to sit down with a warm coffee or a nice glass of wine on December 23rd instead of searching for last-minute Christmas gifts in a crowded store?

When you shop for Christmas all year round, you don’t need to be at the mall searching for a parking spot with everyone else. You can take some time to relax and really get into the holiday spirit. 

You can go into the new year on a financial high note

It’s all fun and games in December but January can be a real bummer if you overspend during the holidays. When you shop for Christmas gifts all year, you can start January on a high note and focus on achieving all of your New Year’s resolutions rather than waiting for your scary holiday credit card bill.  

Don’t forget to budget for each family member’s Christmas gift 

If you like the idea of shopping for Christmas gifts throughout the year, then it’s a good idea to still set a Christmas budget. Just as you can overspend during the last-minute Christmas rush, you can also overspend on Christmas when you’re shopping throughout the year if you don’t have a plan.  

Remember what Christmas is really about

This Christmas give yourself the gift of more time, less stress, and less debt by shopping for holiday gifts all year long! This strategy will give you the ability to focus on the things that really make the holidays special — the people, the traditions, and the memories! 

And that brings us to Christmas dinner! Discover how to create a budget for Christmas dinner too!

–By Jessica Martel 

The post How to Set a Realistic Budget for Christmas Shopping appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

How to Choose a 401(k) Beneficiary: Rules & Options

multicultural family

Choosing a 401(k) beneficiary ensures that any unused funds in your account are dispersed according to your wishes after you pass away. Whether you’re married, single, or in a domestic partnership, naming a beneficiary simplifies the estate process and makes it easier for your heirs to receive the money.

There’s room on 401(k) beneficiary forms for both a primary and contingent beneficiary. Before making any decisions on a beneficiary and a backup, it can help to familiarize yourself with 401(k) beneficiary rules and options.

Why It’s Important to Name 401(k) Beneficiaries

If you die without a beneficiary listed on your 401(k) account, the distribution of the account may have to go through the probate process. While some plans with unnamed beneficiaries automatically default to a surviving spouse, others do not. If that’s the case—or if there is no surviving spouse—the 401(k) account becomes part of the estate that goes through probate as part of the will review.

401(k) may house a substantial amount of your retirement savings. How you approach choosing a 401(k) beneficiary depends on your personal situation. For married individuals, it’s common to choose a spouse. Some people choose to name a domestic partner or your children as beneficiaries.

Another option is to choose multiple beneficiaries, like multiple children or siblings. In this scenario, you can either elect for all beneficiaries to receive equal portions of your remaining 401(k) account, or assign each individual different percentages.

For example, you could allocate 25% to each of four children, or you could choose to leave 50% to one child, 25% to another, and 12.5% to the other two.

In addition to choosing a primary beneficiary, you must also choose a contingent beneficiary. This individual only receives your 401(k) funds if the primary beneficiary passes away. If the primary beneficiary is still alive, the contingent beneficiary doesn’t receive any funds.

401(k) Beneficiary Rules and Restrictions

Really, an individual can choose anyone they want to be a 401(k) beneficiary, with a few limitations. There are only a few restrictions and requirements on who may be named a beneficiary.

•  Minor children cannot be direct beneficiaries. They must have a named guardian oversee the inherited funds on their behalf, which will be chosen by a court if not specifically named. Choosing a reliable guardian helps to ensure the children’s inheritance is managed well until they reach adulthood.

•  A waiver may be required if someone other than a spouse is designated. Accounts that are ruled by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) have 401(k) spouse beneficiary rules. A spousal waiver is required if you designate less than 50% of your account to your spouse. Your plan administrator can tell you whether or not this rule applies to your specific 401(k).

How to Name Multiple 401(k) Beneficiaries

You are allowed to have multiple 401(k) beneficiaries, both for a single account and across multiple accounts. You must name them for each account, which gives you flexibility in how you want to pass on those funds.

When naming multiple beneficiaries, it’s common practice to divide the account by percentage, since the dollar amounts may vary based on what you use during your lifetime and investment performance.

However, also consider how the funds will be taxed for each individual . Spouse and non-spouse beneficiaries have different rules for an inherited 401(k). Spouses usually have more options available, but they differ depending on the spouse’s age and your age at the time of passing. In many cases, the spouse may roll over the funds into a specific spousal or inherited IRA.

Non-spouse beneficiaries may face higher tax consequences, but may be able to extend or stretch any required distributions over their life span to reduce their taxable income. They can also take out the money as a lump sum, which will be subject to income tax, but not the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

What to Do After Naming Beneficiaries

Once you’ve selected one or more beneficiaries, take the following steps to notify your heirs and to continually review and update your decisions as you move through various life stages.

Inform Your Beneficiaries

Naming your beneficiaries on your 401(k) plan makes sure your wishes are legally upheld, but you’ll make the inheritance process easier by telling your beneficiaries about your accounts. They’ll need to know where and how to access the account funds, especially since 401(k) accounts can be distributed outside of probate, making the process much faster than other elements of your estate plan.

For all of your accounts, including a 401(k), it’s a good idea to keep a list of financial institutions and account numbers. This makes it easier for your beneficiaries to access the funds quickly after your death. Plus, there may be rules on the pace at which the funds must be dispersed after your death—in some cases, your beneficiary may need to spread out withdrawals of the entire account over the 10 years following your death.

Revise After Major Life Changes

Managing your 401(k) beneficiaries isn’t necessarily a one-time task. It’s important to regularly review and update your decisions, especially as major life events occur. The most common events include marriage, divorce, birth, and death.

Common Life Stages

Before you get married, you may decide to list a parent or sibling as your beneficiary. But you’ll likely want to update that to your spouse or domestic partner, should you have one. At a certain point, you may also wish to add your children, especially once they reach adulthood and can be named as direct beneficiaries.

Divorce

It’s particularly important to update your named beneficiaries if you go through a divorce. If you don’t revise your 401(k) account, your ex-spouse could end up receiving those benefits—even if your will has been changed.

Death of a Beneficiary

Should your primary beneficiary die before you do, your contingent beneficiary will receive your 401(k) funds if you pass away. Any time a major death happens in your family, take the time to see how that impacts your own estate planning wishes. If your spouse passes away, for instance, you may wish to name your children as beneficiaries.

Second Marriages and Blended Families

Also note that the spouse rules apply for second marriages as well, whether following divorce or death of your first spouse. Your 401(k) automatically goes to your spouse if no other beneficiary is named. And if you assign them less than 50%, you’ll need that spousal waiver. Financial planning for blended families takes thought and communication, especially if you remarry later in life and want some or all of your assets to go to your children.

Manage Your Account Well

borrow from your 401(k), this can cause issues if you pass away with an outstanding balance. The loan principal will likely be deducted from your estate, which can limit how much your heirs actually receive.

Also try to streamline multiple 401(k) accounts as you change jobs and open new employer-sponsored plans. There are several ways to rollover your 401(k), which makes it easier for you to track and update your beneficiaries. It also simplifies things for your heirs after you pass away, because they don’t have to track down multiple accounts.

How to Update 401(k) Beneficiaries

Check with your 401(k) plan administrator to find out how to update your beneficiary information. Usually you’ll need to just fill out a form or log into your online retirement account.

Typically, you need the following information for each beneficiary:

•  Type of beneficiary
•  Full name
•  Birth date
•  Potentially their Social Security number

Although your named beneficiaries on the account supersede anything written in your will, it’s still smart to update that document as well. This can help circumvent legal challenges for your heirs after you pass away.

The Takeaway

A financial plan at any age should include how to distribute your assets should you pass away. The best way to manage your 401(k) is to formally name one or more beneficiaries on the account. This helps speed up the process by avoiding probate.

A named beneficiary trumps anything stated in your will. That’s why it’s so important to regularly review these designations to make sure the right people are identified to inherit your 401(k) assets.

Preparing for retirement? SoFi Invest® offers both traditional and Roth IRAs to help you reach your goals.

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The post How to Choose a 401(k) Beneficiary: Rules & Options appeared first on SoFi.

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8 Tips to Save Money on Meat

TipstoSaveMoneyonMeat

Buy It in the Morning

Looking for deals on meat? Hit up the supermarket in the early morning. That’s when they’ll be restocking the meat case, and you’ll have the best bet at finding a deal.

Buy in Bulk

Ask at the deli counter of your supermarket for “bulk ends,” and ask if there’s a discount! These end bits of sliced meats are too small to slice in the machine, but can be sliced or cubed at home. They’re often offered at half off!

Befriend the Butcher

When does your supermarket mark-down meat? It’s as easy as asking the butcher. Especially if you’re friendly, he or she will usually be happy to let you know this valuable savings secret.

Market Watch

Supermarkets have started using their own wording on meat packages to make you think that the product you are buying is a better grade than it really is. Most of the major chains are buying more select-grade beef, but may call it by any number of fancy names such as “top premium beef,” “prime quality cut,” “select choice,” “market choice,” or “premium cut.” Be aware that these titles don’t actually mean anything!

Ask for Discounted Cuts

Grocery stores make a lot of money on meat, so it’s not surprising that they display the priciest cuts in the case! Experience dramatic savings by instead asking the butcher to slice different cuts for you from the same primal (or section) of the cow or pig. These cuts can be as little as one-fifth the cost of the expensive, pre-packaged cuts, and they’ll be just as tender and tasty. Here are a few discounted (yet delicious) cuts you can ask for: Instead of buying ground beef, ask the butcher to grind up a bottom round roast for you. If you’re looking for rib eye steak, request chuck eye. (You may need to ask the butcher to cut a 4-inch roast off the front of the boneless chuck, then to peel out the chuck eye and cut it into steaks.) Instead of pork tenderloin, buy an entire loin roast and ask the butcher to cut it up for you.

Buy Bigger Hams

If you’re going to buy a canned ham, purchase the largest one you can afford. Most smaller canned hams are made from bits and pieces glued together with gelatin. Cured hams are injected with a solution of brine salts, sugar, and nitrites. The weight of the ham will increase with the injection, and if the total weight goes up by 8 percent, the label will usually say “ham with natural juices.” If the weight of the ham increases by more than 10 percent, the label must read “water added.”

Make Your Own Patties

Never buy meat that’s already been shaped into patties (unless it’s on sale). Instead, buy your own and shape into patties yourself. Place a sheet of waxed paper between each, then place the entire stack in a resealable plastic bag and put in the freezer.

Leaner Isn’t Always Better

Even if you want to prepare low-fat meals, you don’t always need to buy the leanest (and most expensive) ground beef. If you’re preparing hamburgers on a grill or on a broiler rack, most of the fat will be lost during the cooking process, so stick with the moderately lean varieties.

For more ways to save money from all over the internet, check out our Saving Money board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for daily tips!

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

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

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