Tips for an Amazing, Affordable Summer Vacation

With hotter and longer days, it can be tempting to want to spend money on everything in sight. But what if the money you were spending on unnecessary expenses went towards a trip you’ll remember forever? Your ideal summer vacation is definitely possible on a budget, despite what you may think. Planning out the expenses of your vacation can minimize stress before, during and after your trip. These helpful recommendations will teach you how to vacation properly without breaking the bank.

  • Be Practical
    • As nice as backpacking through Europe or cruising through the Caribbean sounds, it is not always possible to take a dream trip of a lifetime when there are other personal expenses to be responsible for. First things first, check your accounts and see how much you are able to spend. Utilizing rental loan and financial counseling services through Till can ease your mind before you begin planning your vacation. When you have a set budget, you will be able to hold yourself accountable. Plan to always stay under budget and don’t plan any activities that will make you go over. Consider who will be coming on this trip with you and the expenses that each person will bring. Begin searching for locations that are close enough to travel by car or a short airplane ride. There are always new places to explore that are closer than you think!
  • Save and Sell
    • Saving money for a trip is not just helpful, it’s necessary. You can save extra funds by creating a dedicated vacation account and cutting excess expenses. Additional expenses can include eating out at restaurants, purchasing coffees, or going out for drinks. Limiting the unnecessary spending before the trip will allow you to enjoy your vacation as much as possible.  A few extra ways to make money for your trip can include offering neighborhood services such as dog-sitting or babysitting or selling any of your used items through platforms such as eBay or Poshmark. Also, look into local stores that purchase any clothing pieces or gently used furniture and can offer cash. Take a look at where you spend the majority of your money and consider options on how to limit these expenses.
  • Estimate all expenses
    • Before you make the trip, plan out what each of your days away from home will look like. The excursions will depend on what type of location you decide to spend your vacation at. Make sure to read reviews and compare prices of any of the activities that you want to embark on. Think about going to the grocery when you arrive at your vacation city to limit the cost of dining out at any of the local restaurants. Eating at home will save you money and allow for more time to be spent with the company of your friends or family.
  • Travel tips
    • Taking a car ride to your vacation spot can be economical and efficient. A few ways to save money on your road trip can be packing food, setting cruise control to limit gas use and comparing gas prices in your area using a platform such as GasBuddy. If you do have the budget to take a trip further than a drive, tracking flights is a must. The best day to book flights is typically on Tuesdays. Tracking prices of flights through Google Flights or SkyScanner will help you to get the best price possible. These websites can keep you updated on price drops and any changes to your flight.

Planning and budgeting for a trip don’t have to be scary or stressful. Considering your expenses before you leave will allow you to relax throughout your summer vacation. There’s a reason that it’s called a vacation. You don’t want to regret your trip, you want to enjoy it!

How to Save For a Down Payment While Renting

  • Pay down your debt: Get organized by writing out all debts owed, monthly payments required, and come up with a game plan. Some people prefer paying the smallest balances off first or try tackling the highest balance to watch it “melt away” over time. You may even be able to lower your payments by consolidating your debt. If possible, pay more than the minimum amount owed to speed up paying it off and lower your overall interest cost over time. Concentrate on one balance at a time until they are payed down or gone completely! Once this is done, you can use those monthly payments to put towards your down payment. Lowering your debt-to-income ratio much faster also improves your chances of getting approved for a loan once you have saved your down payment.
  • Get a roommate: Finding a roommate can help you pay down your debt as well as save for a down payment while on the road to becoming a homeowner. If you’re someone with an extra bedroom, why not rent it out? Be sure to check your lease agreement for sub-leasing requirements first or see about adding them to the lease.
  • Continue reading How to Save For a Down Payment While Renting

Simple Ways to Establish and Improve Your Credit Score

There are ways to establish credit without out jumping head first into it. Below you will find a few ways to slowly immerse yourself into the world of credit or help improve your score.

Open a checking or savings account: Establishing a relationship with a financial institution can help when trying to establish credit. By doing this you can also maybe take advantage of some the products your financial institution may offer. Some lenders ask to see bank statements to show your savings and spending habits prior to making the approval for a loan. Credit unions are a great alternative to traditional banks and usually have membership perks.

Apply for a secured credit card: A secured credit card is backed by a cash deposit equal to your credit limit that is paid up front. Although you are paying a deposit, a secured card is still used in the same manner as a traditional credit card. You can still: buy items, make payments, and incur interest if the balance is not paid in full. The deposit is refundable once the account is closed, but if payments are not made the deposit will be used as collateral. Remember, the purpose of a secured card is to jump-start your credit so you can qualify for a traditional credit card.

Become an authorized user on another person’s credit card: This is a great way for a family member or significant other to help you in your journey to establishing credit. As an authorized user, you will have access to the card while building your credit. This is a good way to build your credit because you are not legally obligated to pay for the charges against the card. If you are going to take on the responsibility of swiping for purchases, be sure to create a game plan with the primary account holder on how to reimburse them.

Use your rent payment history: Most landlords do not report positive rental history to credit agencies, but there are companies that you can use to report it for you. If you are a renter, paying rent is already something you are doing. Why not use it to boost your credit score? Try out Credit Karma or ask your landlord if they can start reporting your monthly payments for a small fee.

Pay off old debts: Remember that small unpaid balance from your previous landlord or old credit card? Those debts still show up on your credit report and can affect your score. You get 1 free credit report per reporting agency per year. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion each have their own reporting systems but ultimately include similar information. Be sure to check your report every year, since it can help alert you to old unpaid accounts or fraudulent identity theft.

Building and maintaining a good credit score is vital to future financial purchases like buying a car, house, or applying for loans. Many landlords and employers also run credit reports that can affect your application status. Small, positive steps over time can help establish credit and improve your score without making major life changes. You have the power!

Ways to Build an Emergency Fund

Are you prepared for a financial emergency? Most Americans do not have an emergency savings fund just in case they run into financial issues. It could be car troubles, a family emergency, or the loss of a job. Do you have emergency savings or even know where to start?  Listed below are a few tips to get you moving in the right direction of creating an emergency savings fund.

  • First, you should chart your monthly income and expenses, and then set a monthly savings goal. This will move you in the direction of getting used to the idea of saving.  But try to remember to make sure it is an amount that is comfortable you.  Once these two musts are worked out you can start to develop a plan for where your emergency funds will come from.
  • Continue reading Ways to Build an Emergency Fund

Back to School Shopping

 

The first day back to school: the day parents look forward to all summer.  Parents bask in the glory of the count down, but the dreaded back to school shopping must happen!  So as a parent do you wait until open house to see if the list changes?  Or do you just go by the list posted on the school website and spend the extra money?  Not to mention that all kids want those special outfits for the first few days of school.  Here are a few tips that help you save while preparing for the new school year.

  • We all know that you can find great deals at Wal-Mart, but it is usually a mad house around back to school season (we have all been there at some point). If you are going to brave Wally World, try going to a Wal-Mart in a county where school has already started.  You will be surprised how different the shopping experience is and there will be supplies readily available!
  • When it comes to finding those select outfits that make your kids feel like a million bucks on the first day, Target’s clearance section is one of the best! Usually around this time they are putting out fall clothes, so their clearance section is full of great buys.
  • Most people usually don’t venture into stores where everything literally cost one dollar. Dollar Tree is one of those stores and they sell everything associated with going back to school.  So when all of the other stores run out of what you need, you can always count school supplies at Dollar Tree!
  • I recently found out about this store this summer, Five Below. In Five Below there is nothing in the store above five dollars.  Here they sale some of the most trendy items from book bags to shoes.  They also tons of accessories and clothing for boys and girls.

Don’t forget you can always shop online if you prefer not to deal with the crowds.  You can find great deals online as well.  Remember in all the frustration of back to school shopping we all have one goal, to make sure our students feel special and prepared for the first day of school.

Budget Friendly Meal Ideas

A lot of the time the hardest part of budgeting is trying to find meals that don’t make your life seem so repetitive.  Trying not to eat out at your favorite restaurant is one of the hardest things to do, especially when cravings set in.  These budget friendly meals will help your feel like you there is light at the end of the tunnel for us who are budgeting.

Spaghetti: This is not only a meal that makes you feel at home, but you can even have left overs for lunch the next day.  Not to mention you pretty much add any ingredient to make it yours!

Tacos: For those days you are feeling a little spicy.  You can use any fillings of your choice: ground beef, chicken, fish, or veggies!  Pair with a few side dishes (90-second rice and canned black beans), and hello! You are suddenly at your favorite Mexican restaurant.  Okay, maybe not, but you just saved a ton of money!

Chicken and Rice: This is one of the most classic meals you can make, and the process is truly simple.  All you need is chicken, water, rice, and a couple of cans of cream of chicken soup to make fabulous meal that can feed a whole family.

Roasted Chicken: Take your favorite dark meat cut of chicken (these are cheaper than chicken breast), rub them down with a smoky rub, and pop them in the oven without even wrapping them up.  You can pair one of your favorite cost-efficient sides like canned green beans or instant mashed potatoes.

 

Budgeting for meals sounds difficult when your first think about it, but when there is a will, there is always a way.  The options above are just a few of many that can help you navigate food excellence while trying to save money.

5 Ways to Up Your Money Game in 2018

This article was developed as part of Till’s partnership with EVERFI, Inc.

It’s time for a mid-year check-in on new year resolutions for self-improvement. It’s never too late to prioritize your financial wellness or re-calibrate goals you set in January.

Ready to up your finances? Read on.

  1. Make a Budget and Stick to it. Budgeting is one of most effective ways to manage your money. Creating and monitoring a budget allows you to track your expenses, adapt to changes, and achieve your financial milestones. Budgeting can also help you save for emergencies and plan for the long run – including retirement.

Use an online budget building tool to break your budget down into simple, easy steps and get started: Click Here

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2. Build Your Emergency Savings. Unexpected expenses happen more often than we like to think. According to a 2018 Bankrate study, less than half of Americans are not financially prepared to cover the expenses that come with emergencies, such as illness, job loss, or even home and auto repairs.

Get more information on the immediate steps you can take this year to start and grow your savings: Learn More

 

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3. Plan for Your Retirement Now. Less than half of Americans take the steps needed to set themselves up for a secure retirement. While saving for the future is easy to put off in favor of more immediate needs, the earlier you start, the more opportunity you’ll have to grow your savings over time.

There’s no better time than now to start planning for retirement. Learn about options, like IRAs and 401(k) plans, with our free retirement education: Retirement 101
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  1. Get Ahead of Your Taxes. Taxes are confusing, and many people get bogged down by complex terms and lengthy paperwork. However, doing your taxes doesn’t need to be a source of anxiety. In fact, getting ahead of your taxes can reap many benefits, including lowering stress and having early access to a refund for year-long planning.

Make filing your taxes a breeze with tips from our 5 minute interactive learning module: Click Here
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5. Take Control of Your Credit. Your credit score can have significant impacts on your financial security and flexibility. Yet, many people have never had the opportunity to learn what a credit score is, what factors impact a credit score, and what actions they can take to make sure their score is healthy.

Take a few minutes to understand the factors that impact your credit score and you’ll be well on your way to building a more secure financial future: Take Control

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No matter the time of year, do a quick check of your financial health and progress towards goals and make adjustments as needed.

Registered users can access our entire library of financial education topics through the online dashboard at www.HelloTill.com.

Free Budgeting Tools to Start Saving

Try not to overthink budgeting to the point of stressing yourself out.  Trying to budget and save money can be challenging for us all, especially if you do not have the right tools to get started.  There are multiple ways to budget your money that literally cost you nothing.

  • Use your very own online banking app: Banking online is a tool that can be used at no cost and most of us are already using this form of banking.  Check out the budgeting dashboard that allows tracking of your cash flow and spending and setting your spending target.
  • Create an Excel Spreadsheet: I know, I know most people cringe at the thought of using Excel.  I definitely do from time to time; however, it is a great way to keep track of all of your spending on a monthly basis.  This will allow for you to see how much you are spending, when you are spending, and what you are spending those hard earned dollars on.
  • Use the envelope method: The envelope method is great for those of us that have to physically see where our money is going.  When you get a paycheck, take a portion of your monies and put it in an envelope, then write what that money is for on the envelope.  This can be done with multiple bills or you can even do it with your spending target.  If you use this option with your spending target the goal is to not run out of money before your next pay period.  If you run out then you will need to go back and revisit where you are spending the most.
  • Notebook Method: Most of us keep some kind of journal or notebook to jot things down we consider important.  Why not use this to make your spending important and track what you are paying out monthly and daily?  Be sure to list all of your monthly household bills and the due dates at the beginning of your book.  Next create a page for your weekly budget break down.  From there you can create a budget based on when your pay dates and the due dates of your bills.

Trying to budget and saving money can work for anyone; the key is starting with a realistic amount that works for you. Always remember budgeting and saving something is better than not trying, even if you are only outing away a couple of dollars at a time.

Rescue Your Security Deposit Refund

Moving is hard, trust us. If you haven’t calculated the Real Cost of Moving, visit our previous blog post before you turn in your notice.

If you do plan on moving out, follow these simple steps to maximize your security deposit refund.

  1. Clean the unit before you move out.

    The golden rule in property management is to leave the apartment or home in the same condition it was given to you, minus any normal “wear and tear” such as worn down carpet areas from foot traffic. To avoid cleaning costs that can range from $200-$500, clean it yourself. Make sure to read your lease to see if steam cleaning is required so you’re not hit with the cost later.

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  2. Fix any pet damage.

    No, your pet fee or pet rent does not cover damages your pet did to the unit while living there, unless it was deemed a deposit or otherwise specified in your lease agreement. Replacements for chewed up blinds are an easy purchase at a hardware store for $5 that can cost up to $20 per blind if you wait for the landlord to replace after you move out.

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  3. Ask your landlord for a move out checklist.

    Make sure you know in advance what your landlord will be looking for during your final walkthrough after you move out. Being prepared will allow you to get the unit back into pre-move in condition so you get back as much of your deposit as possible. Do they require you get a professional cleaning? Does your lease have any other requirements? Don’t be blindsided!

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  1. Pay your last month’s rent on time.

    Many people confuse their security deposit as paying for the last month’s rent, but that is usually not the case. Check your lease agreement first, and unless it’s specifically stated, do not assume you can use it as such. In most cases, your deposit is to only be used after you move out to charge against any damages to the unit. Any unpaid balances such as rent will also be applied, which can leave you owing money. Avoid ruining your credit and rental history by paying the full month or per-day rent on time as usual before you move out.

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Depending on your state’s landlord tenant laws, it can take up to 30 days to receive your final statement and security deposit refund. Careful planning and move-out prep can set you up to receive as large a refund as possible!