My favorite non-financial genre is nonfiction travel books, and after finishing the bestseller Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, I quickly moved on to her compilation of life advice columns called Tiny Beautiful Things. As they were initially written anonymously, they were brutally honest yet compassionate.
Most people wrote to her in times of personal crisis, usually more emotional than financial, although money was often involved. Here are just a few of her insights and wisdom that I felt could be helpful:
Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.
Every mother has a different story, though we tend to group them together. We like to think that partnered moms have it good and single moms have it rough, but the truth is that we’re a diverse bunch. Some single mothers have lots of child-free time because their kids are regularly in the custody of their fathers. Some seldom get a break. Some partnered mothers split child-care duties with their spouses in egalitarian ways; others might as well be alone. Some mothers of both varieties have parents, siblings, and friends who play active roles in their children’s lives in ways that significantly lighten the load. Others have to pay for every hour another person looks after their kids. Some mothers, single or partnered, can’t afford to pay anyone for anything. Some can and do. Others can and won’t. Some are aided financially by parents, or trust funds, or inheritances; others are entirely on their own. The reality is that, regardless of the circumstances, most moms are alternately blissed out by their love for their children and utterly overwhelmed by the spectacular amount of sacrifice they require.
You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. I don’t say this as a condemnation—I need regular reminders to stop feeling sorry for myself too. I’m going to address you bluntly, but it’s a directness that rises from my compassion for you, not my judgment of you. Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things have befallen you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.
There is no why. You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding. And, dear one, you and I both were granted a mighty generous hand.
I could put most of the letters I receive into two piles: those from people who are afraid to do what they know in their hearts they need to do, and those from people who have genuinely lost their way.
Somehow this last quote keeps coming back to me, about how we can know the right path yet be so afraid to take it.
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Coronavirus Stimulus Check 2020 [how much you’ll get & who qualifies]
(The following is a transcription from a video I recorded. Please excuse any typos or errors.)
Quick little update for you.
The Senate and the White House reached an agreement on this big stimulus bill, the Trump coronavirus stimulus check for 2020.
Let me share with you who will be eligible, how much you will get, what the qualifications are, and when you can expect to receive the stimulus check from the U.S. government.
And so if you haven’t heard about this, it’s pretty cool because you’re probably going to be getting a nice fat check from the government.
Here are the details that you need to know.
It is expected to be up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, which is pretty fun.
These amounts are based off of your 2018 tax returns if you haven’t filed 2019 tax returns yet.
Taking Your Income Level Into Consideration
And according to this article from the Los Angeles Times, the amount received will decline gradually beginning with individuals who make $75,000 a year or married couples who make $150,000 total each year.
Individuals making $99,000, or above or couples making $198,000, or above would receive no check.
Which looks like this:
And here is another helpful breakdown of how big your stimulus check will likely be:
When will you get your check?
Stimulus Check Timeframe
The fun thing about is they’re expected to be shipping within the next few weeks.
So that’s really cool. And you don’t normally see the government move this fast on things, but the stock market’s been doing fantastic the last two days as a result of the expectation of this thing coming through.
While I’m not really excited about the long term effects of the government giving away all this money, I know a lot of people who will be excited to get a little bit of cash in their pocket.
So that’s the latest update for the Trump coronavirus stimulus check for 2020!
Let us know in the comments below what you plan to do with this Trump stimulus check that you will hopefully be receiving soon!
13 Ways to Spring Clean Your Finances
Spring is the perfect time to tidy up your home and your money. Here are 10 ways to boost your mood, ease some stress, and spring clean your finances.
Around this time of year, I always start to think about spring cleaning. I am a bit of a clean freak, so I have a to-do list for each room of my home. And then it all gets done little by little rather than in a single weekend. Whether you prefer to spring clean a bit at a time or all at once, don’t forget to add one thing to your list: your finances.
Now is a great time of year to check in on those financial New Year’s resolutions and to tidy up your financial life. Not sure where to begin when making your money spring cleaning list? Check out these ideas for a start:
1. Get rid of old accounts
Over the years, it’s easy for accounts of all sorts to accumulate. Maybe you have a 401(k) from a job you worked at for only a couple of years, or an empty HSA that you can’t use with your current health care plan. Or maybe you tried a new bank a while back, but didn’t prefer their service and switched back. You may even have credit cards you aren’t using at the moment.
Now is an excellent time to clean up all those old accounts. Try to figure out where you have accounts, and consolidate as much as possible. This may mean rolling your 401(k)–or more than one–over into an IRA. Or you may need to actually close old bank accounts or credit cards.
Be careful when closing credit card accounts, though, as this will change your debt-to-credit ratio and could lower your credit score. But if the card in question has a relatively small limit or charges an annual fee, it may be worthwhile to close it.
2. Clean up your paperwork
While you’re going through those old bank accounts, start cleaning up your paperwork, too. Reducing the number of accounts you have can reduce the amount of mail you get, which is always a great option. But you should also go through your filed paperwork annually to see what you can get rid of.
Generally, you want to keep tax-related paperwork for seven years, or maybe more if you’re a business owner. But if you’re still hanging on to personal tax paperwork that’s more than a decade old, it’s time to take it to the shredder. As you get rid of paperwork, ensure that your filing system makes sense that you keep the paperwork you need and don’t let things fall through the cracks.
3. Change banks
Are you getting the best possible interest rate on your savings and maybe even checking account at your bank? If not, or if you’re paying high banking fees, it may be time to find a new bank. With interest rates trending up, you may even out-earn inflation in some high-yield savings accounts.
The key here is to be sure you can live up to the bank’s expectations to get the best yields. So be realistic about your daily and annual balances to ensure you aren’t choosing a bank where you’ll inadvertently have to pay fees because your balance isn’t high enough. And be sure the high interest rate you’re going for also applies to your general balances.
4. Get going with a debt snowball
Getting out of debt is always a worthwhile goal. And while you definitely don’t want to think about any more snow this time of year (especially if you live in the Midwest like I do), setting up your debt snowball can be helpful.
One option, the traditional “snowball” method, is to pay off your debts smallest balance to largest balance. Each time you pay off a debt, you roll that debt’s minimum payments into your monthly snowball payment. By the time you get to your highest-balance debt, you’re throwing a ton of money at it each month.
Another option is to structure your debts from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. This is also a great option, and it can help you save more money as you get out of debt. Check out this article for an overview of the pros and cons of each approach.
5. Set and track a budget
If you aren’t already tracking your budget, it’s time to start now. Keeping track of your budget is the best way to begin working towards your financial goals. And you don’t have to do anything super complicated.
Plenty of online budget tools let you set up a simple budget and automatically keep track of your spending in different categories. And the great thing is that you don’t have to be micro about what you track. Just focus on tracking your trouble spending areas–those types of things you tend to overspend on. Just becoming more aware of your monthly spending can help you rein it in so that you can direct more money towards that debt snowball.
6. Automate your savings
Once you’ve figured out your budget and how much you want to put towards debt each month, look at how much you want to save. Whether you’re saving for long-term goals like retirement or short-term goals like a vacation, automating your savings is an excellent way to make it happen.
For retirement, this may mean looking at your employer-sponsored retirement plan and, if possible, ramping up your contributions. If it’s too early in the year to change your contributions, consider contributing to an IRA instead. You can also make automated transfers between your checking account and your emergency fund, vacation fund, or other short-term savings account goal.
7. Consult with a financial advisor
You might think that financial advisors are only for the wealthy, but that’s actually not the case. In fact, a financial advisor could help you set a path for your financial success in the future. And you may not even need to meet with a real person.
Related: Do You Need a Financial Advisor?
Services like Betterment can help you see where you need to go financially and whether you’re on track to retire when you’d like to. This particular tool is an excellent robo-advisor service that can really ramp up your confidence in financial decision-making.
But meeting with a person isn’t always a challenge. In the old days, you’d have to find a referral or walk into an investment office to locate a great financial advisor. But now there’s a service called SmartAdvisor (by SmartAsset) that will actually match you up with a great financial advisor.
Simply take a survey (no more than 25 questions) and the algorithm will match you with up to three different financial advisors, based on your investment goals and financial situation. From there, you’ll be contacted by the advisor to talk more. It’s like speed dating for financial advisors and we highly recommend it.
8. Begin investing
Once you’ve met with a financial advisor or used a service like Betterment, it’s time to start investing if you haven’t already. You’re really never too young to begin investing, and if you’re out of your twenties, you can’t get going soon enough!
If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, that’s the best place to begin. This is especially true if your employer offers any sort of match for your retirement plan contributions. That’s essentially free money, so you definitely don’t want to miss out on it! But even if your employer doesn’t offer a plan, you can invest on your own through an IRA, which is another tax-advantaged investment option to consider. Check out this article to learn how to open your own IRA.
9. Track your net worth
Tracking your net worth might seem like it’s not worth your time, but it’s actually something worth looking at. Your net worth is the value of all your assets, including non-liquid assets like your home or car, minus all of your debts. Sometimes the path towards becoming debt free can be long and arduous. But as you climb that path, your net worth will climb, too. So that can be encouraging.
Plus, your net worth is a good indicator of your overall financial health. And it’s not that hard to track, either. Tools like Personal Capital make tracking your net worth practically automatic, which is great.
10. Create or update your estate plan
For me, some of spring cleaning is about preparing for the future. If I spring clean things like the lint trap on the dryer, which you should totally do more than once a year, I can protect my home from the possibility of a fire. And spring cleaning in the basement lets me catch leaks or other problems that could get out of hand in the future.
Financial spring cleaning is no different. Much of it is about planning for the future, both of yourself and of the ones you love.
Unless you’re a wealthy individual, you probably don’t need a complicated estate plan. But nearly everyone needs a will and a streamlined estate plan. For instance, if you have debts, you need to be sure those can be covered so that your loved ones aren’t stuck holding the bag. And if you have children, an estate plan and will is even more important. So if you don’t have one of these or you haven’t looked at it in more than a couple of years, it’s time to get an estate plan together.
These spring cleaning steps could happen in the course of a week or two with some dedicated effort and the right tools. Or you can begin your spring cleaning now and plan to finish in a couple of months, just in time to relax for the summer.Spring is the perfect time to tidy up your home and your money. Here are 13 ways to boost your mood, ease some stress, and spring clean your finances.
How to Drastically Cut Expenses
In the week that ended on March 28th, a record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. That’s a 3,000% surge since early March, and it just goes to show how devastating coronavirus has been to our economy and particularly non-essential industries like retail, hospitality, and travel.
As we all know by now, closing everything comes at a huge cost for businesses and people who work in non-essential and essential jobs. While millions have been financially devastated already, even those who manage to stay employed throughout this disaster could be required to take a major cut in pay.
You may not have the freedom to run out for a $5 coffee every day, but facing a loss in income — or having to worry about losing your job — can easily make you feel like all the walls are closing in. Fortunately, you do have some power when it comes to saving your financial future. By cutting your expenses, you can make your money last longer or build an emergency fund that can help you sleep better at night.
As a side note, if you’ve already lost your job and you need access to some money to pay bills in a hurry, there are plenty of ways to make money fast. And if you’re able to cut your expenses and earn some money on the side, you’ll be even better off.
15 Ways to Cut Expenses Right Now
- Refinance Your Mortgage
- Refinance Student Loans
- Consider 0% APR Credit Card or Debt Consolidation Loan
- Ask Credit Card Issuer for Lower Interest Rate
- Shop Around for Insurance or Alter Your Current Policies
- Get Rid of Subscriptions You Don’t Need
- Cancel Memberships You’re Not Using
- Switch to Streaming Television
- Cook at Home and Avoid Takeout
- Create a Meal Plan and Stick to It
- Consider a Discount Cell Phone Service
- Shop Around for Cheaper Internet
- Stop Shopping Online
- Use Apps to Earn Cash Back
- Give Up Habits Like Smoking and Drinking
Cutting your expenses comes with huge benefits for your finances, mostly because this strategy allows you to get by while earning less. And if you do wind up losing your job, having lower expenses will allow you to stretch your emergency savings as far as they can go.
If you’re wondering about the best ways to cut your expenses for maximum effect, here are some of the most important strategies to consider implementing right away.
Refinance Your Mortgage
Today’s record-breaking interest rates can also help you save big if you’re able to refinance your mortgage. Further, the best mortgage refinance companies of 2020 offer exceptionally low rates and quick closings that can even take place in your home.
With Amerisave, for example, you can get a look at updated interest rates and get-prequalified in three minutes without giving your Social Security number or enduring a hard inquiry on your credit report. Amerisave even offers “no fee” refinance options that let you wrap your loan costs into your new loan in exchange for a higher rate than the lowest advertised rate.
Keep in mind that refinancing your mortgage can help you secure a lower monthly payment, lower interest costs over the long haul, or both. However, you do need to have an income to qualify for a new home loan.
Refinance Student Loans and Score a Lower APR
Interest rates are once again hovering near all-time lows, which makes now a great time to refinance your debts if you have the income to qualify. With student loan refinancing, for example, you can refinance federal or private student loans with a new lender that might offer you a lower interest rate, a lower monthly payment, or both. Just remember that you’re giving up federal benefits like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans if you refinance federal loans with a private lender.
Where should you consider refinancing your student loans? The best student loan refinance companies offer low interest rates and low fees (or no fees) for qualified buyers, so make sure to compare all of your options. Some student loan refinancing lenders can offer rates that are much lower than you could get with federal student loans, although you do need good credit or a cosigner to qualify.
Consider a 0% APR Credit Card or Debt Consolidation Loan
If you have credit card debt that’s lingering at a high interest rate, you can also consider a new loan or credit card that can help you save. With a 0% APR credit card, you can secure 0% APR for anywhere from 12 to 21 months, although a 3% or 5% balance transfer fee normally applies. Still, you can secure considerable interest savings even after paying a balance transfer fee. After all, avoiding interest on your credit cards for a year or more could help you avoid paying exorbitant interest rates during your credit card’s introductory offer and you get the benefit of paying down debt faster.
A debt consolidation or personal loan can also help you consolidate and pay off credit card debt faster while saving money. Many debt consolidation loans come with rates as low as 5.99%, which is significantly lower than the rates credit cards charge.
How much can you save with a personal loan? That depends on how much debt you have and your current interest rate, but consider this example.
Imagine you have $10,000 in credit card debt with an APR of 18%. If you were able to pay $250 per month, you would pay this amount down over 62 months and fork over $5,386 in interest in the process.
Now imagine you found personal loan rates as low as 5.99% on a five-year personal loan. With this rate and the same amount of debt, you could pay just $193 per month for five years, and your total interest paid would only be $1,596. That’s a savings of more than $50 per month and almost $3,800 over five years.
Ask Your Credit Card Issuer for a Lower Interest Rate
If you have credit card debt but you can’t qualify for a debt consolidation loan or new credit card, also consider reaching out to your credit card issuer to ask them to reduce your rate. Many major banks have hardship programs for customers struggling with implications of coronavirus right now, so you may be surprised at what they can offer.
As an example, the American Express Financial Hardship program page says you may be able to qualify for a lower monthly payment, a lower interest rate, and other benefits if you simply call in and ask.
Shop Around for Insurance or Alter Your Current Policies
Many insurance providers are offering special rebates right now due to coronavirus, including refunds on a percentage of your auto insurance premiums. In fact, two insurers — Allstate and American Family Insurance — have already announced they’re giving $800 million back to customers this year. This only makes sense since most of us are hardly driving right now, if at all.
If your auto insurance company isn’t voluntarily offering this type of rebate, you should definitely call and ask. In the meantime, spend some time getting quotes and comparing pricing for other auto insurance policies as well as homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance.
Remember that you’ll save the most money if you spend time shopping for a lower price at least once per year. Also consider bundling multiple policies with one provider to save money, and ask about other discounts that may be available.
Get Rid of Subscriptions You Don’t Need
Tons of new subscription services have become available over the last decade, but you may not want to continue paying for ones you don’t necessarily need. While you can go through your credit card bills to see what you’re subscribed to manually, a service like Trim can do the grunt work for you.
Not only does Trim negotiate cable, internet, phone, and medical bills, but it cancels old subscriptions you’re not even using. The app also analyzes your spending patterns to figure out steps you can take to save even more. Best of all, signing up for an account with Trim is 100% free.
Also check out TrueBill, which is another service that helps you cancel subscriptions and save money. TrueBill also has a free option that lets you utilize some of the app benefits without paying a membership fee.
Cancel Memberships You’re Not Using
Also consider other memberships you could cut from your life, including gym memberships, massage memberships, or memberships to a wholesale club. Being locked down for weeks has drastically changed the way many of us live, and that’s especially true when it comes to places we would normally pay to belong to.
If you’re stuck at home, there’s no reason to continue paying for memberships you can’t even use for months at a time.
Switch to Streaming Television
Still paying for a pricey cable subscription? There are a ton of lower cost options to consider that will provide just as much entertainment value, ranging from Hulu Plus to YouTube TV.
If you’re ready to ditch cable television, make sure to figure out which services will provide the kind of television you watch the most. Netflix has an unlimited streaming option for $8.99 per month, and you can get Hulu starting at just $5.99 per month. With these two options alone, you should have access to more television and movies than you could ever feasibly watch.
Cook at Home and Avoid Takeout
Even if you’re someone who loves cooking at home, there’s still the temptation to order takeout in areas where restaurants can remain open for carry-out and delivery. If you want to save money, make sure to limit takeout dining to only a few times per week.
Having extra time at home is the perfect opportunity to learn new cooking techniques or try new recipes anyway, so make sure to take advantage. At the very least, stick to the core staple meals you already know how to cook and spend time in the kitchen at least five nights per week.
Create a Meal Plan and Stick to It
Creating a meal plan can also help you stay on track with your food savings goals, and that’s especially true if you’re ordering groceries for delivery through a service like Shipt or Instacart. Spend some time figuring out the main ingredients you need for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week, leaving a few days open to eat leftovers. From there, craft a grocery list that includes the ingredients you need and nothing more.
Having a meal plan will ensure you’re not buying convenience foods or ordering takeout because none of the ingredients you have go together for a meal.
Consider a Discount Cell Phone Service
If you are paying a premium for a luxury cell phone plan, now is an excellent time to look for a cheaper alternative. With Ting, for example, you only pay for the cell phone service you actually use, and a single cell phone line starts at just $6 per month. If you added on 100 minutes of talk, up to 1,000 texts, and up to 500MB of data for the month, your monthly cell phone bill would only be $24.
Make sure to consider other discount cell phone providers in your area so you can find the coverage you need for a much lower cost.
Shop Around for Cheaper Internet
Also check for cheaper internet options in your area, although companies that provide service regionally can vary quite a bit. Major players on the scene include Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless, but make sure to check out satellite internet options like DISH Network.
Stop Shopping Online
Online shopping is becoming extremely convenient and easy, and those purchases can add up surprisingly fast.
If you’re worried about your online shopping bill, one step you can take now is removing your credit card information from all your favorite shopping sites. Yes, this means removing your credit card bill from your Amazon Prime Account, as well as your Walmart shopping account, your Boxed.com account, and any other websites you like to browse when you’re bored.
When you force yourself to enter your credit card details manually for each purchase, you’re bound to think twice about your spending and save money over time.
Use Apps to Earn Cash Back
If you do have to buy items online, make sure you’re using coupon codes or cashback portals to maximize your necessary spending. Rakuten is a great website to use if you want to earn cash rewards on shopping, and so is the Dosh app.
Give Up Habits Like Smoking and Drinking
Finally, give up pricey habits like smoking and drinking. Both can lead to negative results for your health over the long haul, and both come with considerable financial costs as well.
Instead of smoking or drinking, try to pick up new habits that can improve your life while you save money. Invest your cigarette savings in a new FitBit and start walking 10,000+ steps per day, or pick up a new hobby you can do at home like woodworking or gardening.
The Bottom Line
Whether you have lost your job or simply worry you might, cutting your expenses right now is probably a smart move. Lower expenses will help you save more money at a time when cash is king, and having lower expenses can also make your savings last longer if you do wind up losing your job.
Times are tough right now, but you do have some power to control the financial impact of coronavirus. Cutting your expenses is one piece of the puzzle, but make sure to look for ways to boost your income, too.
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