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.

While You’re Away: Do’s and Don’ts for Home Security

It’s that time of year again; summer vacations and long weekends cannot come soon enough for most people. Before you pack your bags and leave your home, follow these safety tips to prevent break-ins or other issues when you’re gone.

 

  1. Avoid posting photos or check-ins on social media

    Although it’s tempting to share your latest status and induce FOMO on your friends, wait until you’re back home before telling the world that you and your entire family are 500 miles away.

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  2. Close blinds and curtains

    Deter would-be burglars by making it difficult to see inside your house. If they aren’t sure whether someone is home or not, the chances of breaking in greatly diminish.

  3. Turn on lights or use timers

    Plug-in timers are by far the best option, since they can be set to “random” on a time schedule. If you don’t have a timer, leave on a few small interior lights and perhaps one exterior.

  4. Leave on a radio or TV

    Choose your favorite channel and leave it on a medium-level volume.

  5. Ask a friend or neighbor to check in

    Find a trusted friend to check on your house or grab your mail while you’re gone. If you get newspapers delivered it’s a good idea to get them picked up rather than piling on the driveway like a neon “No One Is Home” sign.

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  6. Do a final walk before leaving

    Ensure everything is unplugged, the stove is off, and consider turning up your thermostat a bit to save energy and money!

Unfortunately break-ins happen everywhere, but following these tips will help make your home as safe as possible while you’re away vacationing.

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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!

Real Talk: You Need Renter’s Insurance

Thinking of skipping or canceling renter’s insurance in order to save money? Think again!

Renter’s insurance is the #1 most important coverage for anyone who is not already covered by homeowner’s insurance.

Let’s say it again for the folks in the back: If you do not own your current living space, you need renter’s insurance.

“What’s the big deal?”

Unless you personally have homeowner’s insurance or are legally married (not just engaged) to someone with homeowner’s insurance, your personal items are not covered by an insurance policy. Meaning, if there is a flood, fire, tornado, accident, or Act of God of any kind, your items are gone forever and you’ll pay out of pocket to replace them.

Your landlord’s insurance policy only covers the actual building and any appliances/features owned by the landlord in your rental space.

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“Doesn’t it cost a lot?”

No. The average policy is around $15 per month ($180 per year), and now there are new companies like Lemonade boasting rates as low as $5 per month. Even if you underestimate the value of ALL your personal belongings in your living space, the cost is no comparison (Think: Computer, phone, clothes, shoes, dishes, furniture, etc.).

Your car insurance company usually also has renter’s insurance, which can help you save money by bundling policies.

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“Doesn’t it just cover my stuff?”

No. If your policy includes liability coverage (and you should definitely have it), you are covered if a guest gets injured in your apartment or if you accidentally burn half of your kitchen down attempting your own cooking show. Your out-of-pocket costs can escalate quickly if you have to repay any medical bills, legal expenses, and/or repair costs.

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Bite the bullet and get renter’s insurance now. Tree falls through your roof? Covered. Pipe bursts in the winter? Covered. Break-in? Covered.

Your future self and wallet with thank you!

The True Cost of Paying Rent Late

The first of the month can sneak up on you, and if your bank account isn’t ready to pay up, you could be seeing red. How much does it actually cost to pay your rent late?

Know the fees.

Your lease agreement will list the late fee charged by your landlord if you pay after the designated grace period (also noted in the lease).

Cost: 5%-10% of rent amount

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Know the deadlines.

If you still have not paid rent after the late fee, your landlord will most likely begin the eviction process. Depending on your state’s laws, the landlord will send a written demand to pay rent or move out (also known as a notice to “pay or quit”) with a deadline of 3-10 days. Landlords usually charge a filing fee that covers the court’s fees and processing.

After the period of time in the notice expires, your landlord can file for eviction or dispossessory, which is a legal notice to the court that you have not paid rent and the landlord wants to take back possession of the property. The sheriff’s office or a designated process server will notify you in writing (via USPS mail or posted on your front door) that the landlord has filed eviction. Pay attention to any court deadlines such as filing your answer.

  • Filing an answer means you are officially responding to the court’s notice of eviction. In most counties/states, filing an answer automatically places your case on the court’s magistrate calendar. This also means that your landlord may charge an additional attorney fee for attending the court date.
  • Failing to show up to your court date will result in a “default judgment” in the landlord’s favor. A writ of possession will be taken out right away, which means the landlord is allowed to take back possession of the home once the sheriff’s office completes the eviction.
  • Attending court may allow for a court-ordered payment plan, but it may be risky depending on your state’s usual process. If you miss any court-ordered payments, the landlord can file the writ of possession.

Costs: $100-$250 Filing Fee
             $200-$300 Attorney Fee
             $50-$100 Writ of Possession

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Know how it affects your credit.

Did you know that civil court filings are part of your credit score? Every time a landlord files for eviction, the case is reported to the credit bureaus. Future landlords and creditors will see the eviction filings, even if the eviction was cancelled by a payment made in full. Too many filings will disqualify you from some rentals. It’s a good idea to use free credit reporting sites yearly so you’re not surprised by your score or history in the future.

Cost: Negative rental history and/or lower credit score

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Know your options.

Till now offers a rental loan that may be cheaper than your late fee! Depending on your state and application, using a rental loan that can be repaid bi-weekly over several months may be your cheapest option. Paying back the loan actually helps improve your credit score by building credit history! To apply for a rental loan visit: https://tillsavings.com/loan_application

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Plan ahead whenever possible and research your options so you’re not hit by surprises later. Happy renting!

 

5 Quick Home Fixes Anyone Can Do

Whether you’re an apartment renter, homeowner, or even living with family, there are a few basic maintenance tricks that everyone should know.

 

  1. Unclog hair in seconds

    No one wants to stand in a tub with slow-draining water or use a sink that won’t drain. Enter Zip It, your new secret weapon. For under $3, this handy single-use tool is more convenient than putting in a maintenance request and is available at Home Depot, Amazon, and other retailers. Simply push it down all the way, pull up, and throw away!

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  2. Reset a circuit breaker

    If your residence was built after 1960, chances are there’s a magical black box (electrical panel) that supplies power to appliances, lighting, and outlets. When you overload a circuit (say, plug in a hair dryer and straightener at the same time), the designated breaker “trips” and shuts off power to that section.

    Open the panel cover, look for one switch that is flipped off (usually different direction than the rest), and switch it back on. When in doubt, try switching each one on and off in turn until power is restored. If you don’t know the location of your electrical panel, be sure to ask your landlord.

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  3. Shut off water in an emergency

    A pipe bursts in the middle of the night or you find a leak in your kitchen coming from under the sink; what do you do? Waiting for a plumber or maintenance tech can leave your personal items in danger, so shut off the water supply quickly to minimize damage. If you’re in an apartment or the leak is limited to one area, shut off the water supply at the source.

    Locate the oval knob and turn until water shuts off. If there’s major leaking or a pipe burst, find the main water supply (usually in basement or crawl space) where the water comes in from the street line. The shut off valve will either look like a spigot knob or a lever. Just make sure to restore water once the repair has been done!

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  4. Change the AC filter

    Did you know replacing your AC filter monthly or quarterly improves the HVAC system function and cuts down energy bills? Locate your filter by looking behind the main cooling vent near the thermostat or in a slot in the furnace. Make sure the unit is off before you unscrew or remove the filter. Make sure your replacement is the same size/type (or better yet, take the old filter with you to the store).

    Slide your new filter into place, making sure to use the arrow on the filter for guidance. Set a reminder on your phone’s calendar to replace regularly according to manufacturer’s directions.

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  5. Reset the garbage disposal

    Garbage disposals also have their own automatic shut off function if it is clogged, runs for a long time, overheats, or breaks. If you flip the switch and do not hear anything, a reset may be needed. Make sure the disposal is set to “off” and locate the small red button on the disposal box under the sink. If the button pops right back out when pushed, wait 10 minutes and try again. If it stays in, turn the cold water back on in the sink and turn your switch to the “on” position.

    You can also try carefully removing any debris while the switch is set to the “off” position. If the disposal still doesn’t run, call your maintenance team or consider replacement.

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    Easy, quick repairs that can zap frustrations in minutes so you can get back to your life. What are your easy maintenance tips?

The Real Cost of Moving

We’ve all been there: Your lease is expiring very soon, and you only have a few days to notify your landlord if you’re moving or renewing your lease.

Use these guidelines to determine your all-in, out-of-pocket cost of moving.

New Security Deposit – $1,000 (usually equal to 1 months’ rent)
First Month’s Rent – $1,000
Application & Admin Fees – $350
Pet Fees – $300 (if applicable)
New Utility Deposits – $350
Moving Company or Truck Rental – $200
Moving Boxes/Supplies – $100
Groceries – $150
Unexpected Expenses – $100

Total Moving Budget = $3,250 – $3,550

Creating a budget is the first step to determine if you’re ready to move. Although new groceries and utility deposits seem excessive, remember that starting over often means starting from scratch on both fronts. Be sure to add a cushion for unexpected expenses like gas for the 20 trips between your old & new places or your car needing repair in the middle of the big move.

Not ready to fork over that amount of dough? Ask yourself why you want to move in the first place.

  • If it’s related to maintenance or unit condition, contact your property manager to discuss possible resolutions.
  • Does the rent increase bother you? In truth, rents usually increase about 3% per year to keep up with inflation. Talk to your property manager if you think there’s room to negotiate a better rate. Remember, rents will increase everywhere, so moving doesn’t guarantee a fixed rental rate for the future.
  • Switching jobs and need a better location? Your community manager may have other properties closer to work, so ask! You may be able to transfer your security deposit or negotiate your rental amount just for being a loyal renter.

Renewal perks are becoming pretty common, so find out if there could be a free carpet cleaning or unit upgrade offer for renewing your lease. The more years you sign on for, the bigger your bargaining power.

If your landlord participates in Till’s Loyalty Program, your monthly on-time cash incentive may increase to $20, $30, or even $40 per month! Wow!

Total up your costs versus any potential savings or perks to renewing before making your ultimate decision. Happy renting!

Slow Mover