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How Much Do YouTubers Make? + How to Make Money on YouTube in 2020 [$$$]

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If you walk into an average 5th or 6th-grade classroom, you could ask a question that the students are very used to answering. That question is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Whereas 10 or 15 years ago, you may have heard answers like a doctor, teacher, astronaut, actor are all careers one would assume a child would set their sights on. You might even hear the rogue unicorn or ballerina. However, the career choice of many children today is YouTube vlogging, also known as a content creator.

You may laugh, but this answer isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. While aspiring to make money online, creating videos for an eager audience may seem to be the dreams of children, many adults are living and even thriving on this method of income generation.

Some, such as Lee Steinfeld, have even abandoned their 9-5 jobs to dedicate their lives to earning money through content creation. And it is paying off because people make money starting YouTube channels.

So, how much money do YouTubers really make?

The answer isn’t as straight forward as you would assume. Several different factors come into play and some things that are the product of pure luck.

With intentional choices, the opportunity to generate at least a moderate income is available. However, without a clear direction and a plan of action, becoming a YouTube content creator may amount to little more than a fun hobby in your spare time.

Throughout this piece, we’ll provide our perception of the most effective methods of how you can make a living as a YouTuber. Or maybe just a little extra cash as a side hustle. We’ll also include information on the range of salaries of the highest-paid YouTubers.

If you like what you read, don’t forget to hit the subscribe button, located at the end of this article (we’re kidding, just a little YouTube humor to set the mood).

How YouTubers Make Money

To give you a perspective into the world of YouTube, we’re going to break down the ways that YouTubers are making money on YouTube.

YouTube Monetization

To generate an income with YouTube, content creators must qualify to apply for YouTube monetization. As of 2018, to apply for this role, Individuals must have at least 1,000 YouTube subscribers and at least 4,000 watched hours in the prior 12 month period.

This means that a YouTuber must have been creating consistent content via YouTube videos over a respectable time and have generated a supportive audience. It wouldn’t hurt their possibilities if that audience views, shares, and subscribes to their channel. Most YouTube channels earn subscribers at a negligible pace, and viewership also takes a long time.

So, achieving 18 million subscribers does not happen overnight, and this benchmark is a difficult feat.

Once a YouTuber applies and receives the approval to monetize their channel, they begin generating an income from making videos. Most of the time, the initial payment is negligible. Often during the first few months, creators will earn mere cents for their views. However, if a YouTuber’s specific content is something that rapidly gains viewership and interest, they may begin to increase their income at a quicker pace.

The way YouTube measures the amount to pay each monetized channel is by the CPM. CPM, or cost per mile (thousand), is the amount of money each content creator makes per thousand views. This number fluctuates with each channel, and one of the main factors is the content created.

Note: Put a bookmark on this concept because we’re going to circle back to it in just a minute.

YouTube Earnings F.A.Qs

  1. How much money do YouTubers make per view? Price per view varies based on the content of the video and how much advisors are willing to pay for an ad. Multi-sources report that between $0.10 to $0.30 per view is possible.
  2. How much do YouTubers make every 1000 video views? User report between 8 and 30 dollars per thousand views.
  3. How many views do you need to get paid on YouTube? You need to have 4,000 hours of watch time and 1000 subscribers to begin monetizing a channel 
  4. How much does YouTube pay per subscriber? YouTube does not pay per subscriber.
  5. How many subscribers do you need to make money from YouTube? You Need 1000 subscribers to apply to monetize your YouTube. 
  6. Do YouTubers get paid for likes? No, however, the more activity a video receives, such as likes, comments, and increased watch time, the more likely YouTube is to suggest the video increasing YouTube rankings and income. 

How to Make Money on YouTube

Google AdSense

Google AdSense is an online platform that assists websites or YouTubers with ad placement. The process for engaging AdSense is simple. Content creators provide information about their channels. If eligible, they choose where they want ads to appear in their videos (such as at the beginning or natural breaks in the content). From there, they pick what ads they’re open to allowing to appear, and then they let Google work their magic.

Google will award the highest paying advertiser the spots that are available on a content creator’s site. The platform also manages the billing associated with the ad revenue and any associated affiliate links. At first, the fees accrued may be similar to that of monetizing a channel, in that you are not making money at a rapid pace. However, over time, creators can begin to earn money at an increased rate from this method, as their viewership and popularity increase.

Affiliate Income

Affiliate marketing is one of the fastest and easiest ways to make money on YouTube. In fact, you can make money with affiliate links before receiving the 1000 subscribers or 4000 hour watch time necessary to be approved with Adsense.

The easiest way to do this is to recommend products or services in your video and include your affiliate link. Each time your viewers purchase with, you will receive a small commission.

One of the most popular affiliate programs is Amazon, with commissions that start at 4%. Additionaly, several popular networks offer affiliate deals for almost every imaginable service such as CJ Affiliate, ShareASale, Flexoffers, and Impact Radius.

Donations

Collection donations can be an excellent way for smaller channels to make money. William “Suede” DuFresne is an excellent example of how to use a Patreon to monetize a YouTube channel.   Before accepting donations, his videos were only making $100 via AdSense ads.

In an attempted to make more money from his channel, he created a Patreon account. In 2018, he earned over $3,000/month — even though at the time, he had less than 10,000 subscribers.

Sponsorships

YouTubers can also start to generate an income through sponsorships. While this area of income generation is dependent on a variety of factors, the most direct way to earn support is a combination of a perfect “storm.”  If a YouTuber’s videos generate a high viewership and the individuals who view the content are of a target audience that interests a sponsor, there is a chance that a company may propose a sponsorship agreement. As the second largest search engine online, many organizations have a vested interested in YouTube marketing.

Remember when we asked you to put a “bookmark” in the earlier section concerning the fluctuating payment? This is where we return to that bookmark. Which leads us into our next section…

How YouTubers Can Increase Profit

YouTubers can increase their profits in several ways. Some of the methods for doing so are intentional, while others are a product of repetition, trial, and error. Here are a few techniques a content creator may use to maximize their profit earned with every video they create.

Target Audiences

Many YouTubers will try to niche down to a specific area of interest. These areas can include beauty, finance, comedy, gaming, acting, etc. Seasoned YouTube video creators encourage those aspiring to become successful YouTubers to pick a subject area that they have a passion for. The reason for doing so is to generate a following of a target audience.

The target audience will increase opportunities to form YouTube partners and create affiliate programs when the company’s desiring YouTube advertising finds your niche that may relate to their business or product. When creating videos for a YouTube channel, it’s fruitful to stick to a specific topic because it will increase views and shares.

For example, successful YouTube content creator Graham Stephens provides educational videos on personal finance matters. This enables him to target an audience of individuals who have an interest in expanding and developing their financial knowledge.

But, why does this benefit a YouTuber? Consolidating to a niche helps drive traffic to a YouTuber’s channel, in turn increasing their views and perhaps their income sources. If a creator is striving to reach the benchmarks to monetize their channel, then this is a way in which they can accomplish this goal.

The other reason for reaching a target audience is to gain sponsorship opportunities. As discussed previously, when YouTuber Graham Stephans creates content, he is targeting a financial audience. Could you imagine any other companies that may want to reach a financial audience? To name a few, banks, lenders, and credit card companies come to mind.

Finding a target audience through the creation of content is one of the savviest methods a YouTuber can increase their profit.

Creating an Abundance of Content

Another method for increasing profit is to create content consistently, with quality videos, and uploading new content regularly. A video channel that published one viral video and now only produces content on occasion will more than likely struggle to maintain loyal viewers.

If viewers never know when to expect new content, their interest in the channel and YouTuber may decline. When views drop, so do sponsorships and the ability to maintain the monetizing status. Creating consistent, scheduled content assures that viewers know when they will be able to find more videos on the subject area of their interest, and hopefully achieve the highly desired one million views.

Another reason to create regular content is that the success of YouTubers’ videos can be unpredictable. Sometimes a video that a YouTuber creates and thinks will gain traction falls flat. Likewise, some content that seems mediocre may skyrocket in popularity. Due to the unpredictability of success, it’s best to create consistent content to increase the odds of a favorable response and to cultivate a growing YouTube channel.

This is not to say creators should throw anything up on their channel and hope for the best. We are also not trying to assert that there is no way to predict the potential success of a video. YouTube stars such as Jeffree Starr, Jake Paul, and Ryan’s Toy reviews have made it their career professional development to know the best ways to earn money on this social media platform.

Our point is that to maximize income generation, a YouTuber should create regular, intentional content with a perspective of what has worked in the past. As the old saying goes, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Success breeds success, and a solid plan of action with your YouTube channel will serve any aspiring YouTuber well.

Seeking Sponsorships

YouTubers can wait and hope that a sponsor will find their channel and offer them sponsorship opportunities. Or, they can pursue organizations that they believe align with their content, and pitch a sponsorship spot, and create a YouTube partner relationship.

Popular and successful YouTube content creator, David Dobrik, recently exercised this tactic and came out with a fantastic deal. He approached a sponsor he felt would have a vested interest in an endorsement from him, requesting they exchange a video “shout out” for the partial payment of a Ferrari.

The sponsor agreed, and Dobrik earned half the amount for a Ferrari. This 20-second mention of the company qualified as affiliate marketing in his video earned him the equivalent of $125,000. Fantastic deal for a YouTube ad on his channel, if you ask us.

Capitalizing on Specific Times of the Year

Going hand-in-hand with seeking sponsorships, there are specific times of the year in which a YouTuber is more apt to gain opportunities for sponsorships and paid YouTube advertising. For instance, around the holiday season, YouTube analytics show that many retailers are eager to increase their presence in hopes of driving revenue.

YouTubers may have the chance to earn more money in exchange for some video marketing during this time of year, and it would benefit them to pursue these options. For at least 30 second spots, google place ads could generate 1.5 to 2 times the normal income rate during the holiday season.  It may also make sense to increase their content during this time of the year, assisting with garnishing as many possibilities for sponsor ads as possible.

Rules of Engagement

While content creation may seem like the best online job and a career with limitless options, there are some rules that YouTubers must abide by. These rules establish parameters that content creators must maintain to keep their monetizing capabilities. YouTube requires their content creators to abstain from hate speech, spam, or copyright violations.

These are just the tip of the iceberg of regulations associated with monetization. Content creators must agree to these rules and abide by them. The platform works on three strikes, and you’re out policy. This means that if a creator violates a rule, they have two more chances before they receive the boot.

Another “deal-breaker” for revenue generation is the use of popular music. If a video includes any music, the video is immediately disqualified from generating revenue. Therefore, most content creators who strive to make money on their online video will avoid the use of music to prevent this misstep.

Unpredictable Factors

Some things are unpredictable with YouTube content creation that affects income generation. For example, YouTube can elect to demonetize a specific video for reasons that may be unexplainable to the creator. YouTube reserves the right to demonetize a video if they feel as though the content is not something they want associating with their brand.

While they won’t ban the video from their platform, they’ll send a direct message. YouTube will make it clear that they’re not a fan of the content, even if the video generated a billion total views, and they’ll do so by reducing the income generated.

How Much Money Do YouTubers Make?

Now that we’ve provided an overview of how YouTubers make money, the natural next question is, how much do YouTube content creators make? The answer is a combination of all of the factors we’ve discussed and then some.

YouTubers receive payment monthly. This means that every month, their revenue is dependent on every single factor mentioned above. Their paycheck is a combination of their YouTube views, shares, sponsorships, Google AdSense revenue, content appeal, and time of year.

Every month YouTube creators face the unpredictability of each of these facets. Like any job that is dependent on the winds “blowing in their favor,” the pay can be either feast or famine. Or, it can fall somewhere in-between.

This makes it almost impossible to identify a standard yearly salary that YouTubers generate. Instead, we’ll give you some examples of a few different YouTube content creators and an estimated income for each.

Highest-Paid YouTubers

David Dobrik

YouTube content creator David Dobrik has a YouTube channel that has over 16 million subscribers. A fair estimate of David Dobrik’s earnings is over $35,000 per day, totaling $13 million a year from ads that run on the videos he creates. That’s a fair amount for starting a YouTube channel.

Michelle Phan

Beauty blogger and YouTube content creator, Michelle Phan is one of the most popular beauty gurus to grace the internet. With 8 million subscribers, the 28-year-old makes an estimated $3 million yearly from her sponsorships and endorsements. Her competitors, other paid YouTubers, like Jeffree Starr, make up to $18 million annually. Starr, as an example, started his YouTube Channel in 2014 after earning the title of the most successful person on MySpace.

Felix Kjellberg

Felix Kjellberg, also known as “PewdiePie,” rose to YouTube glory as a commenter on video games. Dubbed the most successful YouTuber, he tops the charts with over 92 million followers and an estimated income of $15.5 million.

Evan Fong VanossGaming

Another successful video gaming associated video host is Evan Fong. Fong’s channel, Vanossgaming, generates almost 24 million subscribers and an estimated $18.5 million in 2018 alone.

VanossGamming is known for its series of funniest moments from games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty Black Ops.

Daniel Middleton DanTDM

Daniel Middleton of DanTDM, a third popular gamer, earned an estimated $16.5 million in 2017 through sponsorships achieved from those who subscribed to his YouTube channel.

If you’re playing video games, you can also start making money online by commenting on them. Who knew?

Dude Perfect

A group of 5 college sports enthusiasts started making money on YouTube by posting videos of their stunts and tricks. Collectively their net worth amounts to an estimated $20 million. It just goes to show that AdSense account reaches are highly valuable, especially when content focuses on things as popular as sports.

Jeffree Star

Jeffree Star is an American Internet celebrity, beauty YouTuber,  and entrepreneur. He is the founder and owner of Jeffree Star Cosmetics. In November 2014, he founded his own cosmetics company, Jeffree Star Cosmetics, which he promotes on his channel. According to Forbes Star earned $18 million from YouTube,  placing him as the 5th highest-paid YouTube star in 2018.
Ryan ToysReview

Ryan’s World (previously Ryan ToysReview) is a family-friendly children’s channel featuring eight-year-old Ryan Kaji.

Ryan’s video “Huge Eggs Surprise Toys Challenge” has reached over 1.9 billion views, placing it as one of the 50 most viewed videos on YouTube. According to Wikipedia, the channel has over 20 million total subscribers, and his videos have garnered over 30 billion views.

Making YouTube videos is not without its challenges; recently, Ryan’s World was accused of misleading advertising.

In a complaint filed to the FTC dated Aug. 28, Truth in Advertising accused Ryan’s World of deceptively promoting “a multitude of products to millions of preschool-aged children.” The take away if you plan to make money blogging, vlogging, or as an online influencer, make sure you understand your audience and follow the FTC’s rules regarding disclosures, labeling sponsored content, and advertising.

Other YouTube Creators

There are other YouTube creators, such as Kelly Patreon, of the channel Kelly Does Her Thing, who has 44,000 subscribers. These views assist her in generating an estimated $18,500 in 2018 from YouTube content creation. Kelly still works a full-time job and has no intention of making YouTube her full-time job anytime soon.

Other YouTubers, such as beauty content creator Nikita Dragun, began their career using the platform to generate an income (an estimated $220,000 per year). Her YouTube career catapulted her success into the world of beauty influencers. This success enabled her to start her make-up line, a secondary source of income that was due to her YouTube success.

Canadian YouTube comedian Lily Singh makes around $8 million a year creating and posting her art. Brothers Jake Paul and Logan Paul, both with their own respective YouTube channels, generate a respectable $11.5 million and $14.5 million, heavily substantiated by the sponsorships they obtain and the merchandise sales they create.

As you can see from our examples, YouTubers can make everything from $0.00 a year to $18 million a year. The income they generate is reliant on several factors, not exclusive of the work and dedication they put into their content and its creation.

The Bottom Line

For some, YouTube offers a platform to express their creative side. Others use it as a means to educate their audience. Still, some use it as a means to advance their careers and provide them with the opportunity they need to achieve said advancement. Paid or unpaid, YouTube creators offer content to those living around the world. Their videos extend the reach of the message each creator wants to convey, enabling them to create a lasting legacy (good or bad).

With the potential for financial gain that YouTube content creators have, comes the unpredictability of both changing trends and technological advancements. What is fashionable and desirable today, may become a thing of the past tomorrow. Similarly, while YouTube is one of our world’s current sources for video content, every day, we are on the cusp of new technology, app, or online platform that threatens to topple YouTube’s kingdom.

It would be an incredible risk for anyone to jump headfirst into a career as a YouTube content creator and hope to make money video blogging. The requirements to monetize a YouTube channel alone require months of dedication. However, if approached, much like those who have found their success after years of deliberate, YouTube has proven a fruitful career choice, especially when in comparison to a career launched in podcasting.

If we were to walk into an elementary classroom and ask students about their desired future career, we’d receive a guaranteed number of students who would state that they aspire to become YouTubers. While insightful concerning current day success stories, we’d offer students some sound advice concerning their future aspirations. That advice would be, “Don’t quit your day job.”

The post How Much Do YouTubers Make? + How to Make Money on YouTube in 2020 [$$$] appeared first on Your Money Geek.



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Finance

The Best Portfolio Analysis Tools For 2020

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portfolio analysis toolsportfolio analysis tools

Tracking and analyzing your investments can be a complicated and time-consuming task. Between expense ratios, dividend yields, management fees, tax planning, and asset allocation, there can be a lot of moving parts to keep track of.

But thankfully there are now many powerful portfolio analysis tools that can save you time and headache. Some tools are free, while others cost money. Some offer deep insights while others keep the analysis at a higher level.

While it’s great that there are now many options available for investors who want to evaluate their portfolios, it can be difficult to tell which ones are the best. Don’t worry. We’ve done the homework for you. Keep reading to see which companies made our short list of the best portfolio analysis tools available today.

Top 3 Picks For Portfolio Analyzer Tools

Here’s our top 3 picks for portfolio analyzer tools. If you’re not using one of these analyzers, we strongly encourage you to check them out for your portfolio planning needs.

Best High-Level Visualizations: Personal Capital

Personal Capital is a free portfolio analysis tool that gives a “mosaic” plot chart to help you visualize the composition of your portfolio. It breaks down your portfolio into stocks, bonds, international, domestic, and other important categories.

Personal Capital made our list of the best portfolio analysis tools primarily because of the huge variety of calculators and charts that it offer. In addition to the mosaic chart, Personal Capital can track your net worth, cash flow, and will provide personalized investing recommendations and insights​.

Although Personal Capital is a free tool, there are a few strings attached. It serves as an advertising platform for Personal Capital’s advisory services. When you first sign up, you may receive a few calls from financial advisors looking for your business.

Pros

  • Free: A great tool comes at the best possible price. 
  • Excellent visualizations: While I’m not a huge fan of Personal Capital’s pie charts, the majority of their charts and graphs are helpful for investors trying to make sense of their portfolio.
  • Helpful recommendations for the average investor: The app makes high-level recommendations about where your asset allocation should be given your risk tolerance and your age. Their recommendations aren’t always a perfect fit for everyone, but can be a great starting place for beginner investors.

Cons

  • May receive phone calls from Personal Capital: If you’ve got a six-figure portfolio, expect a few calls from Personal Capital representatives. It may be annoying at first. But after a few calls, you’ll be able to use the tool for free without being hassled.
  • Minimal insight into volatility: Personal Capital doesn’t give much insight into expected volatility unless you dig deep into the recommendations section.
Personal-Capital-LogoPersonal-Capital-LogoPersonal-Capital-Logo

Best Probability-Based Tool: Portfolio Visualizer

Portfolio Visualizer is one of the most robust portfolio analysis tools on the market. It specializes in Monte Carlo simulations (which give the probability of a portfolio lasting a specified period of time), backtesting, and various forms of asset allocation analysis. The tool also provides some insights into timing strategies.

Portfolio Visualizer is ideal for investors who enjoy tinkering with their portfolio. But you’ll also want to be someone who’s committed enough to your basic investing strategy that you won’t be tempted to dump it every time you come across a new tool in Portfolio Visualizer.

Pros

  • Monte Carlo and Backtesting: Probability-based portfolio analysis is key for people trying to do DIY retirement or college planning. Portfolio Visualizer provides easy to use and easy to understand options for both of these.
  • Robust free plan: The free version of Portfolio Visualizer provides all the major functionality except exports to Excel or CSV files and the ability to import portfolios. But if you simply want to understand the tool, the free plan is excellent.

Cons

  • Must pay to import portfolios: It costs $19 per month for a “basic” subscription to the tool. This includes importing and saving portfolios and exports to CSV or Excel files. Investors who own lots of individual stocks will probably need to upgrade to this option.
  • Expansive set of tools can be overwhelming: With great power comes great responsibility. In spite of the educational materials on the site, Portfolio Visualizer can be overwhelming especially for people just getting started. I recommend familiarizing yourself with basic investing concepts using Personal Capital or Morningstar Portfolio Manager before digging into this advanced tool.

Best For Mutual Fund And ETF Investors: Morningstar Portfolio Manager

Morningstar is one of the premier portfolio analysis tools for everyday investors looking to understand more about their investment portfolio. Morningstar’s Portfolio Manager is a free tool that gives details on stocks, ETFs and mutual funds. 

The X-Ray tool also gives a deep dive into each mutual fund or ETF to give details that other analysis tools might miss. For example, it uncovers hidden fees and shows whether you may be accidentally over-invested in a single stock due to a fund’s allocation.

Pros

  • Easy to understand: The charts and statistics that morningstar provide are easy to understand, even for people who don’t have a lot of background in investing.
  • Focused on the right details: Most investors need to understand their asset allocation and the fees they are paying.The Morningstar tool provides details on these but doesn’t overwhelm with too much information.

Cons

  • Have to manually enter portfolios: Unlike many portfolio analysis tools, Morningstar’s Portfolio Manager cannot connect to your brokerage account. You must manually enter all your portfolio positions.
  • Accessing the best tools requires a paid subscription: While Morningstar Portfolio Manager is completely free, X-Ray is part of the Morningstar Premium service which costs $199 per year. However, you can try a 14-day trial for free.
Morningstar LogoMorningstar LogoMorningstar Logo

Final Thoughts

The portfolio analysis tools outlined above are excellent. But as robust as they are, they won’t meet every need. A lot of times, the best tools for improving your finances are tools that help you manage your cash flow. For this type of need, a free app like Mint, Clarity Money or Emma may make more sense. 

For the spreadsheet inclined, Tiller Money can help with net worth tracking and cash flow management. Or if you wanting to see how your investing portfolio fits into your overall financial plan, tools like Savology or NewRetirement could be better options.

The post The Best Portfolio Analysis Tools For 2020 appeared first on The College Investor.



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Introducing Coverage Critic: Time to Kill the $80 Mobile Phone Bill Forever

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A Quick Foreword: Although the world is still in Pandemic mode, we are shifting gears back to personal finance mode here at MMM. Partly because we could all use a distraction right now, and even more important because forced time off like this is the ideal time to re-invest in optimizing parts of your life such as your fitness, food and finances.

Canadian Readers – we have also collected some recommendations for you at a new Canadian Mobile Phone recommendations page.

Every now and then, I learn to my horror that some people are still paying preposterous amounts for mobile phone service, so I write another article about it.

If we are lucky, a solid number of people make the switch and enjoy increased prosperity, but everyone who didn’t happen to read that article goes on paying and paying, and I see it in the case studies that people email me when looking for advice. Lines like this in their budget:

  • mobile phone service (2 people): $160

“NO!!!!”
is all I can say, when I see such unnecessary expenditure. These days, a great nationwide phone service plan costs between and $10-40 per month, depending on how many frills you need.

Why is this a big deal? Just because of this simple fact:

  • Cutting $100 per month from your budget becomes a $17,000 boost to your wealth every ten years.

And today’s $10-40 phone plans are just great. Anything more than that is just a plain old ripoff, end of story. Just as any phone more expensive than $200* (yes, that includes all new iPhones), is probably a waste of money too.

So today, we are going to take the next step: assigning a permanent inner-circle Mustachian expert to monitor the ever-improving cell phone market, and dispense the latest advice as appropriate. And I happen to know just the guy:

Christian Smith, along with colleagues at GiveWell in San Francisco, circa 2016

My first contact with Chris was in 2016 when he was working with GiveWell, a super-efficient charitable organization that often tops the list for people looking to maximize the impact of their giving.

But much to my surprise, he showed up in my own HQ coworking space in 2018, and I noticed he was a bit of a mobile phone research addict. He had started an intriguing website called Coverage Critic, and started methodically reviewing every phone plan (and even many handsets) he could get his hands on, and I liked the thorough and open way in which he did it.

This was ideal for me, because frankly I don’t have time to keep pace with ongoing changes in the marketplace. I may be an expert on construction and energy consumption, but I defer to my friend Ben when I have questions about fixing cars, Brandon when I need advice on credit cards, HQ member Dr. D for insider perspectives on the life of a doctor and the medical industry, and now Chris can take on the mobile phone world.

So we decided to team up: Chris will maintain his own list of the best cheap mobile phone plans on a new Coverage Critic page here on MMM. He gets the benefit of more people enjoying his work, and I get the benefit of more useful information on my site. And if it goes well, it will generate savings for you and eventual referral income for us (more on that at the bottom of this article).

So to complete this introduction, I will hand the keyboard over to the man himself.

Meet The Coverage Critic

Chris, engaged in some recent Coverage Criticicism at MMM-HQ

I started my professional life working on cost-effectiveness models for the charity evaluator GiveWell. (The organization is awesome; see MMM’s earlier post.) When I was ready for a career change, I figured I’d like to combine my analytical nature with my knack for cutting through bullshit. That quickly led me to the cell phone industry.

So about a year ago, I created a site called Coverage Critic in the hopes of meeting a need that was being overlooked: detailed mobile phone service reviews, without the common problem of bias due to undisclosed financial arrangements between the phone company and the reviewer.

What’s the Problem with the Cell Phone Industry?

Somehow, every mobile phone network in the U.S. claims to offer the best service. And each network can back up its claims by referencing third-party evaluations. 

How is that possible? Bad financial incentives.

Each network wants to claim it is great. Network operators are willing to pay to license reviewers’ “awards”. Consequently, money-hungry reviewers give awards to undeserving, mediocre networks.

On top of this, many phone companies have whipped up combinations of confusing plans, convoluted prices, and misleading claims. Just a few examples:

  • Coverage maps continue to be wildly inaccurate.
  • Many carriers offer “unlimited” plans that have limits.
  • All of the major U.S. network operators are overhyping next-generation, 5G technologies. AT&T has even started tricking its subscribers by renaming some of its 4G service “5GE.”

However, with enough research and shoveling, I believe it becomes clear which phone companies and plans offer the best bang for the buck.  So going forward, MMM and I will be collaborating to share recommended phone plans right here on his website, and adding an automated plan finder tool soon afterwards. I think you’ll find that there are a lot of great, budget-friendly options on the market.

A Few Quick Examples:

Mint Mobile: unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 8GB of data for as low as $20 per month (runs over T-Mobile’s network).

T-Mobile Connect: unlimited minutes and texts with 2GB of data for $15 per month.

Xfinity Mobile: 5 lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 10GB of shared data over Verizon’s network for about $12 per line each month (heads up: only Xfinity Internet customers are eligible, and the bring-your-own-device program is somewhat restrictive).

Total Wireless: 4 lines in a combined family plan with unlimited calling, texting, and 100GB of shared data(!) for $100 per month (runs on Verizon’s extensive network).

Ting: Limited use family plans for under $15 per line each month.

[MMM note – even as a frequent traveler, serious techie and a “professional blogger”, I rarely use more than 1GB each month on my own Google Fi plan ($20 base cost plus data, then $15 for each additional family member). So some of these are indeed generous plans]

Okay, What About Phones?

With the above carriers, you may be able to bring your existing phone. But if you need a new one, there are some damn good, low-cost options these days. The Moto G7 Play is only $130 and offers outstanding performance despite the low price point. I use it as my personal phone and love it.

If you really want something fancy, consider the Google Pixel 3a or the recently released, second-generation iPhone SE. Both of these are amazing phones and about half as expensive as an iPhone 11.

——————————————-

Mobile Phone Service 101

If you’re looking to save on cell phone service, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the industry. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to skip over a lot of nuances in the rest of this post. If you’re a nerd like me and want more technical details, check out my longer, drier article that goes into more depth.

The Wireless Market

There are only four nationwide networks in the U.S. (soon to be three thanks to a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint). They vary in the extent of their coverage:

  • Verizon (most coverage)
  • AT&T (2nd best coverage)
  • T-Mobile (3rd best coverage)
  • Sprint (worst coverage)

Not everyone needs the most coverage. All four nationwide networks typically offer solid coverage in densely populated areas. Coverage should be a bigger concern for people who regularly find themselves deep in the mountains or cornfields.

While there are only four nationwide networks, there are dozens of carriers offering cell phone service to consumers – offering vastly different pricing and customer service experiences.

Expensive services running over a given network will tend to offer better customer service, more roaming coverage, and better priority during periods of congestion than low-cost carriers using the same network. That said, many people won’t even notice a difference between low-cost and high-cost carriers using the same network.

 For most people, the easiest way to figure out whether a low-cost carrier will provide a good experience is to just try one. You can typically sign up for these services without a long-term commitment. If you have a good initial experience with a budget-friendly carrier, you can stick with it and save substantially month after month.

With a good carrier, a budget-friendly phone, and a bit of effort to limit data use, most people can have a great cellular experience while saving a bunch of money.

MMM’s Conclusion

From now on, you can check in on the Coverage Critic’s recommendations at mrmoneymustache.com/coveragecritic, and he will also be issuing occasional clever or wry commentary on Twitter at @Coverage_Critic.

Thanks for joining the team, Chris!

*okay, special exception if you use it for work in video or photography. I paid $299 a year ago for my stupendously fancy Google Pixel 3a phone.. but only because I run this blog and the extra spending is justified by the better camera.

The Full Disclosure: whenever possible, we have signed this blog up for referral programs with any recommended companies that offer them, so we may receive a commission if you sign up for a plan using our research. We aim to avoid letting income (or lack thereof) affect our recommendations, but we still want to be upfront about everything so you can judge for yourself. Specific details about these referral programs is shared on the CC transparency page. MMM explains more about how he handles affiliate arrangements here.



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Finance

8 Best Budgeting and Personal Finance Tools

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Taking control of your personal finances is simple in theory. But if you’re struggling with budgeting, saving, or investing, trying a new tool may be the ticket to making better decisions and improving your success.

Here are eight of the best personal finance tools to make sense of your money, stay organized, and achieve your financial goals.

8 Best Budgeting and Personal Finance Tools

Keep reading to learn more about each of these budgeting and personal finance tools.

1. Quicken

Quicken has been around a long time and is considered the gold standard in personal finance software. They have a suite of products that connect to multiple types of accounts, such as banks, credit cards, lenders, and investments, to aggregate your transactions.

Like many companies, they’ve moved to a subscription model where you pay an annual fee and get automatic updates for new features and services.

The Starter version gives you a lot, including automatic expense categorization, limited budget tracking, and a bill dashboard, for $35 per year. Upgrading to Deluxe ($50) or Premier ($75) gives you the Starter features plus customizable budgeting, loan tracking, investment tracking and analysis, bill pay, and online backup.

Quicken has far more features than I’ll ever use, but it’s my favorite way to manage money.

You can use Quicken on your PC or Mac, but PC users can also get a Home & Business version for $100 per year. It helps you manage a small business or freelance work by separating personal and business expenses, emailing custom invoices with payment links, and tracking business tax deductions.

You can enter transactions manually into Quicken if you don’t want to connect to your financial accounts online. And there are Quicken mobile apps to sync up with your desktop version, although you can’t see all your data.

Quicken has far more features than I’ll ever use, but it’s my favorite way to manage money. Every week I import new transactions and make sure they’re categorized correctly, especially those related to taxes, so I can easily create reports at tax time.

2. Mint

Mint is one of the original web-based personal finance management programs. It’s free to sign up and connect your financial accounts, such as a bank, credit card, loans, and investments through an easy-to-use dashboard.  

The Mint mobile app has a lot of functionality, allowing you to check account balances and monthly budgets.

Once Mint…

Keep reading on Quick and Dirty Tips



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