Money Management 101 for Single Parents Going it Alone

1. Determine What You Owe

As the head of the household, it’s up to you to make sure that your entire family’s needs are being met. In order to do that, you need to be extremely diligent when it comes to money management basics. This is not something that will happen by accident. Instead, you must plan for it and work toward it.

The first step is to set up your “office.” Gather all of your bills, a calculator, a pencil, and your checkbook.

I would also recommend that you grab an old binder that you can use to keep track of your financial data and a shoebox for storing paid bills.

Now you’re ready to begin:

  • Go through all of your bills, and pay anything that is due within the next week.
  • If you have bills coming due that you cannot pay, notify the company and ask them to set up a payment plan with you.
  • Print a copy of the chart “Paying Down My Debts” or make your own.
  • On the chart, list all of your debts, including any car loans, student loans, and credit card debt.
  • In addition, list the total balance left to be paid on all of these debts, and the percentage rate you are paying.
  • For now, leave the fourth column of the chart blank, and store it in your “Financial Data” binder.

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2. Eliminate Joint Debt

Before we create a plan for paying down your debt, it’s important to consider some special circumstances that may apply to you as a single parent. I asked LaToya Irby, Credit/Debt Management Expert, to share her expertise on handling joint debt:

Wolf: Let’s say a single mom still shares a credit card with her ex. What should she do?

Irby: Ideally, she would want her ex to transfer his portion of any joint balances onto his own credit card. That way, everyone is paying for their own debt.

Wolf: What about leaving both names on the account, and agreeing to pay part of the amount due? Is that ever advisable?

Irby: No. If you’ve made an agreement with your ex to split the debt payments on accounts that include your name, and your ex-misses a payment, it’s going to hurt your credit. If the ex-fails to pay altogether, the creditors and collectors will come after you. Not even a divorce decree can change the terms of a joint credit card agreement. In the credit card issuer’s eyes, you’re just as much responsible for post-divorce accounts as before.

Wolf: What about situations when a couple’s divorce decree mandates that one individual must pay off the joint credit card debt, but that person fails to do it?

Irby: You can always file contempt of court papers against him/her, but in the meantime, your credit score suffers. So I suggest paying off the debt to save your credit. If you can’t afford to pay the debt, at least make minimum payments to keep a positive payment history on your credit report.

Wolf: What about other accounts, such as utilities and cell phones?

Irby: The safest thing to do, if you have a service in your ex’s name, is to turn off the account and reestablish service in your name.

 

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3. Find Money to Pay Down Debt

Another thing we have to do before creating a plan to pay down your existing debt is to find money in your budget each month. To assist in this step, I contacted Erin Huffstetler, Frugal Living Expert.

Wolf: How much money do you think the average person can uncover just by being more intentional about spending and budgeting?

Huffstetler: The average person could easily uncover an extra $250 a month—and probably much more.

Wolf: What are the top 5 areas that you think people should look to first when they’re trying to cut their expenses?

Huffstetler:

  • Food spending (both groceries and eating out)
  • TV-related expenses (cable/satellite services, certainly; but also movie subscriptions and rentals)
  • Phone services (particularly extras like call waiting, caller id, long distance, and cell phones)
  • Insurance premiums
  • Miscellaneous spending (all those small amounts spent on coffee, vending machine snacks, and other indulgences)

Wolf: How can single parents, specifically, stretch their child support dollars and reduce child-related expenses?

Huffstetler: For single parents looking to stretch their child support dollars, creativity is the key. Look to children’s consignment shops and thrift stores to buy your kids’ clothes instead of department stores; sign them up for Parks and Rec-run activities instead of privately-run activities (which will always cost more); and don’t feel like you have to make up for being a single parent by buying them extra things—it’s you they need, not stuff.

 

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4. Pay Off Your Debt

The next step is creating a schedule for paying down your debt:

  1. Pay off the debts that charge you the highest interest first.Bob Hammond, author of Life Without Debt, recommends that you pay off the debts that are charging you the highest interest first since borrowing from those creditors is costing you the most money. “Concentrate on paying off the high-cost debts as soon as possible,” Hammond advises. LaToya Irby, Credit/Debt Management Expert, agrees. “Highest interest rate debts cost the most money, especially when those debts have high balances. So you’ll save money on interest charges when you pay off those high-interest rate debts first.”However, there are exceptions to this general rule. Irby notes, “If you’re likely to get discouraged because it’s taking a long time to pay off that high-interest rate debt, you can start with the lowest balance debt. Getting some small debts paid off will motivate you to keep going.”
  2. Pay more than the minimum payment. Aim for paying more than the suggested minimum payment, in order to pay off your debts as quickly as possible.Miriam Caldwell, Money in Your 20’s Expert, shares this advice:
    • Choose one debt to focus on.
    • Increase your payment on that debt by as much as you can.
    • Once you have paid off that debt, move all that you are paying on it to the next debt you want to pay off.
    • You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get out of debt with this plan!
  3. Meanwhile, continue to pay the minimum balance due on all of your other debts.Record what you intend to pay toward each debt on the debt chart you made in Step 1.

 

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5. Budget Your Monthly Expenses

Now that you know where you stand financially, and you’ve created a plan for paying down your debts, it’s time to make sure that you’re making any other necessary adjustments so that you can keep up with your plan. And this means creating a budget.

I know this can be intimidating, but I’m going to make a suggestion for you: Sign up for Mint.com. It’s a free financial software program available on the Internet, and it will basically do your budgeting for you. It will create a visual pie chart showing how much you’re spending each month on housing, gas, food, entertainment, and more. This way, if it turns out that you’re spending a lot more on food than you really should, you can begin to make the necessary adjustments to get your spending under control.

If you would prefer to create your budget the traditional way, allotting a certain amount of money to each spending category, I’ve created an online budget calculator you can use, which includes categories for child support and other details specific to your life as a single parent.

Finally, in taking a look at where your money really goes each month, it’s important to know approximately how much money you “should” be spending in each category. Generally speaking, your net spendable income (after taxes) should be allocated as follows*:

  • Housing: 30%
  • Food: 12%
  • Auto: 14%
  • Insurance: 5%
  • Debt: 5%
  • Entertainment: 7%
  • Clothing: 6%
  • Savings: 5%
  • Medical/Dental: 4%
  • Miscellaneous: 7%
  • Child Care: 5%
  • Investments: 5%

 

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6. Set Financial Goals

Now that you’ve worked out a plan to pay down your debt, and you’ve created a budget, it’s time to determine your needs moving forward.

Specifically, as a single parent, you need to ask yourself some questions, such as:

  • Do you need to file for child support?
  • Do you need to get a higher-paying job?
  • Is it time to think about going back to school?
  • Do you need to consider moving into a home/rental that would reduce your overall monthly payments?
  • Are there alternatives, such as taking on another job or splitting expenses with another single parent family, that you need to consider at this point?

One of the things that I want you to know is that the ball is in your court. You determine where this goes from here on out. But unfortunately, you can’t do that if you’re ignoring your financial health, right?

So the fact that you’ve come this far in the process of getting a handle on your finances tells me that you’re determined to make the changes you need to make in order to provide for your family’s future.

So go ahead and ask yourself these questions. So much of single parenting is learning to roll with the punches and be creative in the face of adversity. If, indeed, you need to make some pretty major changes, now is the time to do it. Don’t incur any more debt where you are. Be resourceful, follow through, and do what you need to do to turn your financial situation around.

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7. Increase Your Net Worth

The next step is to determine your net worth and begin adding to it.

Determine Your Net Worth:

Your net worth is what you own minus what you owe. Programs such as Mint.com, Quicken, and Microsoft Money will calculate your net worth for you, automatically.

You can also determine your net worth simply by adding up all that you own, including all of your investments, the equity you may have paid into your home, the value of your car, and any other assets you possess; and subtracting what you owe in remaining debts.

Set Up a Savings Account:

Once you know where you stand, you’ll be ready to set up a savings account. You can do this through your regular bank, or begin investing in a mutual fund that pays interest.

Even if you can only afford to set aside $25 or $50 per month, it will begin to add up.

Before you know it, you’ll have an emergency savings plan in place, to protect you in the event that your car breaks down, or your home needs a major repair.

In addition, this regular savings will help you increase your net worth over time.

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8. Become Even More Frugal

Unfortunately, all of the work you’ve already done in steps 1-7 will have little lasting value if you don’t change your attitude toward money. Now is the time to become even more frugal and learn to live within your means.

Practice Discipline:

Stop imagining that more money is going to pour in tomorrow—through finally collecting on unpaid child support, winning the lottery, or getting a promotion. If those things happen, great! You’ll be even better off. But living as if they’re going to happen is causing you to spend money you don’t have.

Instead, force yourself to make purchases with cash only. Do not continue to pay outrageous interest payments toward credit cards for purchases you don’t absolutely need. You can get by without that new furniture, right? What else could you skip, in the interest of spending only what you have right now in the bank?

Try These Ideas:

  • Check Freecycle before you make another major purchase. Someone else may be giving away the very thing you’d like to buy!
  • When you’re getting ready to buy something specific, look for it on eBay first. I buy a lot of my clothes, new-with-tags, through online auctions!
  • Forget trying to keep up with “The Jones’s.” You already know your value; don’t get caught up trying to “prove” your worth to others by having “just the right” house, car, or appearance.
  • Do not use shopping, ever, to appease your emotions.
  • Finally, when you do go to make a big purchase, step back and give yourself a few days–or even a week–to think about it. There’s no reason to suffer through buyer’s remorse and try to justify to yourself purchases that you really can’t afford. Think it over carefully and make those purchases, when necessary, with cash.

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9. Schedule Your Own Weekly Financial Check-In

Grab your calendar and schedule a weekly financial update meeting with yourself. This is an extremely important step in managing your personal finances, and it’s one that you need to continue each and every week. During your “meeting” time:

  • Pay any bills that are due.
  • If your bank statement has arrived, take the time to balance your checkbook.
  • Check the balances of your checking and savings accounts.
  • Update your debt list to incorporate any recent payments.
  • This is also a good time to write out your grocery shopping list and check what’s on sale at your local grocery store this week (either using the store’s Web site or the sales circular that comes in the newspaper).
  • Finally, also make note of any upcoming expenses you need to anticipate and plan for.

An attitude of gratitude and finances.

 

 

References:
Irby, LaToya. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008, 
Huffstetler, Erin. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008. 
Sources:
Caldwell, Miriam. Email interview. 27 Oct. 2008, Hammond, Bob. “Debt Free Key: 10 Steps for Coping With Credit Problems.” Life Without Debt. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 1995. 31-32, Irby, LaToya. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008. 
“Spending Plan Online Calculator.” Crown Financial Ministries. 11 Oct. 2008.

Written By: Jennifer Wolf

Source: thebalance

 

 

 

Market Update: April 24, 2017

MarketUpdate_header

  • U.S. up, Europe surging in wake of French vote. U.S. equities are tracking global markets higher this morning following yesterday’s first round of the French presidential elections in which Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen finished in the top spots, triggering a run-off vote set for May 7. Friday’s session concluded with the major indexes posting modest losses ahead of the vote, as the S&P 500 (-0.3%) was led lower by the telecom (-1.6%) and financials (-0.9%) sectors, with only utilities (+0.5%) and industrials (+0.1%) finishing positive. Overseas, Asian indexes reacted positively to the French election as the Nikkei (+1.4%) and Hang Seng (+0.4%) gapped higher; the notable exception was the Shanghai Composite (-1.4%), which fell amidst a government crackdown on leverage. European indexes are spiking as the STOXX 600 (+1.8%) benefits from investors betting on the pro-E.U. candidate Macron; Frances’s CAC is up more than 4% to its highest level in nine years. Finally, the yield on the 10-year Treasury has jumped to 2.30%, WTI crude oil (-0.5%) is just below $50/barrel, and COMEX gold ($1271/oz.) has dropped 1.4%.

MacroView_header

  • Solid start to Q1 earnings season. With 95 S&P 500 companies having reported, Thomson-tracked S&P 500 earnings for first quarter 2017 point to an 11.2% year-over-year increase, compared with consensus estimates of +10.2% as of quarter end on April 1, 2017. The early upside has been driven largely by financials, which are tracking to a 19.0% year-over-year increase, more than 4% above quarter-end estimates. Industrials have also surprised to the upside thus far. Conversely, since earnings season began, first quarter earnings estimates have been cut for the consumer discretionary, energy, and telecom sectors, though it is probably too early to call any of these sectors “earnings season losers.” This week (4/24/17-4/28/17) is the busiest week of earnings season with 194 S&P 500 companies slated to report. All of the widely-held sectors are well represented on the earnings calendar, led by industrials.

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  • Leading indicators rise for seventh consecutive month. The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) pushed 0.4% higher in March, ahead of expectations but decelerating from a downwardly revised 0.5% increase in February. Eight of 10 indicators increased in March, led by contributions from the yield curve and strong new manufacturing orders survey data. The LEI has climbed 3.5% year over year, a rate that has historically been associated with low odds of a recession occurring within the next year.
  • The latest Beige Book suggests a steady economy with modest wage pressure. The Federal Reserve (Fed) released its April Beige Book last week ahead of the May 2-3, 2017 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. Our Beige Book Barometer (strong words minus weak words) rose to +77 in April, its highest level since +84 in January 2016, indicating continued steady economic growth in early 2017 with some signs of potential acceleration. Words related to wage pressure have held steady over the last six months at levels above the 2015-2016 average, indicating the appearance of modest but still manageable wage pressure.
  • Important period for European markets. This week, we examine the importance of European market earnings, particularly in important sectors like energy and banking. Expectations remain high for earnings growth throughout 2017, which has kept us cautious on investing in European markets. Political risks also remain, but seem to be abating as we get past the first round of French Presidential elections.

MonitoringWeek_header

Monday

  • Germany: Ifo (Apr)

Tuesday

  • New Home Sales (Mar)

Wednesday

  • BOJ Outlook Report & Monetary Policy Statement
  • BOJ Interest Rate Decision

Thursday

  • Durable Goods Orders (Mar)
  • Eurozone: Consumer Confidence (Apr)
  • ECB Interest Rate Decision
  • Japan: CPI (Mar)

Friday

  • GDP (Q1)
  • UK: GDP (Q1)
  • Eurozone: CPI (Apr)

Saturday

  • EU Leaders Summit
  • China: Mfg. & Non-Mfg. PMI (Apr)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual security. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. Investing in foreign and emerging markets securities involves special additional risks. These risks include, but are not limited to, currency risk, political risk, and risk associated with varying accounting standards. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are subject to interest rate risk and opportunity risk. If interest rates rise, the value of your bond on the secondary market will likely fall. In periods of no or low inflation, other investments, including other Treasury bonds, may perform better. Bank loans are loans issued by below investment-grade companies for short-term funding purposes with higher yield than short-term debt and involve risk. Because of its narrow focus, sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies. Commodity-linked investments may be more volatile and less liquid than the underlying instruments or measures, and their value may be affected by the performance of the overall commodities baskets as well as weather, disease, and regulatory developments. Government bonds and Treasury bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. Investing in foreign and emerging markets debt securities involves special additional risks. These risks include, but are not limited to, currency risk, geopolitical and regulatory risk, and risk associated with varying settlement standards. High-yield/junk bonds are not investment-grade securities, involve substantial risks, and generally should be part of the diversified portfolio of sophisticated investors. Municipal bonds are subject to availability, price, and to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rate rise. Interest income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax. Federally tax-free but other state and local taxes may apply. Investing in real estate/REITs involves special risks such as potential illiquidity and may not be suitable for all investors. There is no assurance that the investment objectives of this program will be attained. Currency risk is a form of risk that arises from the change in price of one currency against another. Whenever investors or companies have assets or business operations across national borders, they face currency risk if their positions are not hedged. This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial LLC.

Market Update: April 17, 2017

MarketUpdate_header

  • Stocks tick higher to begin week. U.S. equities are slightly higher this morning as earnings season ramps up this week with 63 S&P 500 components set to report. Markets moved lower the final three sessions of the last week’s shortened trading week, concluding with a 0.7% loss for the S&P 500 on Thursday which was led lower by energy (-1.9%) and financials (-1.7%). Asian indexes closed mixed overnight, with the Nikkei gaining 0.1%, while China’s Shanghai Composite slipped 0.7% as a request from the country’s top securities regulator to tighten controls overshadowed an upside surprise to Gross Domestic Product (GDP); European markets are closed for Easter Monday. Meanwhile COMEX gold ($1291/oz.) is near flat, WTI crude oil ($53.03/barrel) is dropping 0.3%, and the yield on the 10-year Note little changed at 2.23%.

MacroView_header

  • First big earnings week on tap. This week 16% of the S&P 500’s market cap will report first quarter 2017 results, highlighted by the financials and industrials sectors. Banks got the season off to a good start late last week, pushing the financials earnings growth rate to near 18% from an estimated 15.6% over the past week. Overall, Thomson-tracked consensus for S&P 500 earnings is calling for a 10.4% year-over-year increase in the quarter; a strong 76% earnings beat rate thus far has lifted overall earnings growth by 0.2% (though just 6% of the S&P 500’s market cap reported last week). Look for our earnings dashboard here on April 24.
  • Consumer prices fell in March. The consumer price index (CPI) fell 0.3% month over month in March, below consensus expectations for a flat reading. Core prices, excluding food and energy, slipped 0.1% month over month, the first sequential decline since January of 2010 and well below consensus estimates of +0.2%. The drop pushed the year-over-year changes in headline and core prices to 2.4% (down from 2.7% in February) and 2.0% (down from 2.2% in February), respectively. The drop in prices was broad based, driven by a combination of wireless phone services, apparel, autos, and housing. We continue to expect two more rate hikes from the Federal Reserve (Fed) in 2017, but the soft data in March may cause markets to at least partially discount the probability of a June hike, which is currently about a coin flip based on fed funds futures markets.
  • Retail sales fell for the second straight month. Following a downward revision to February, retail sales fell for the second straight month in March, slipping 0.2% (vs. consensus of -0.1%), though sales increased by a respectable 5.2% on a year-over-year basis. Core retail sales (excluding autos, gasoline, building materials and food services), rose 0.5% month over month, above expectations, after a downwardly revised 0.2% decline in February. Consumer spending clearly slowed in the first quarter after a strong finish to 2016, but weather, delayed tax refunds, and seasonal quirks in first quarter data in recent years suggest a rebound in the second quarter is likely. Still, first quarter gross domestic product, based on available data to date, is tracking to only about 1%.
  • Upside surprise to Chinese GDP. The Chinese government released its official Q1 GDP report overnight, up 6.9%, better than expectations which generally were in the 6.5%-6.7% range. Economic indicators were up across the board, including growth in Fixed Asset Investment (infrastructure and real estate spending), which is often heavily influenced by government policy, and retail sales. Consumer spending is key to the Chinese government, as it is trying to manage its economy away from infrastructure and heavy industry and toward consumer spending and the service sector.
  • Though many are skeptical regarding Chinese GDP growth figures, what may matter most is how China responds to them. Because the government is signaling that the economic situation is strong, it gives it room to be more aggressive on important issues, primarily the debt problem. Chinese shares were down slightly despite the positive data. Why? Perhaps because of the government’s signal that policy will shift away from supporting the economy (which officially no longer needs the support) and toward dealing with these longer term imbalances.
  • Checking in on technicals, sentiment, and uncertainty. This week we will take a look at market technicals, sentiment, and the ever increasing uncertainty. The good news is market breadth remains strong and globally we are seeing many major markets in uptrends as well. Still, sentiment is a mixed picture and the level of uncertainty remains high. All of this, coupled with the historically low level of market volatility during the first-quarter, makes the potential for higher volatility very likely.

MonitoringWeek_header

Monday

  • BOJ: Kuroda Speaks to Trust Companies Association

Wednesday

  • Beige Book
  • Eurozone: Trade Balance (Feb)
  • Eurozone: CPI (Mar)

Thursday

  • Initial Jobless Claims (Apr 15)
  • Conference Board US Leading Index (Mar)
  • Eurozone: Consumer Confidence (Apr)

Friday

  • Existing Home Sales (Mar)
  • Eurozone: Markit Mfg. & Services PMI (Apr)
  • CAD: CPI (Mar)
  • ECB: Current Account (Feb)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual security. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. Investing in foreign and emerging markets securities involves special additional risks. These risks include, but are not limited to, currency risk, political risk, and risk associated with varying accounting standards. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are subject to interest rate risk and opportunity risk. If interest rates rise, the value of your bond on the secondary market will likely fall. In periods of no or low inflation, other investments, including other Treasury bonds, may perform better. Bank loans are loans issued by below investment-grade companies for short-term funding purposes with higher yield than short-term debt and involve risk. Because of its narrow focus, sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies. Commodity-linked investments may be more volatile and less liquid than the underlying instruments or measures, and their value may be affected by the performance of the overall commodities baskets as well as weather, disease, and regulatory developments. Government bonds and Treasury bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. Investing in foreign and emerging markets debt securities involves special additional risks. These risks include, but are not limited to, currency risk, geopolitical and regulatory risk, and risk associated with varying settlement standards. High-yield/junk bonds are not investment-grade securities, involve substantial risks, and generally should be part of the diversified portfolio of sophisticated investors. Municipal bonds are subject to availability, price, and to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rate rise. Interest income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax. Federally tax-free but other state and local taxes may apply. Investing in real estate/REITs involves special risks such as potential illiquidity and may not be suitable for all investors. There is no assurance that the investment objectives of this program will be attained. Currency risk is a form of risk that arises from the change in price of one currency against another. Whenever investors or companies have assets or business operations across national borders, they face currency risk if their positions are not hedged. This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial LLC.

The Holidays Are About the Fa La La, Not the Moo La La

This year, we’ll collectively fork out $465 billion on holiday spending. Of all that cash, about 43% is spent on travel, and another 41% on gifts. Saving in those two areas alone can really help make a difference in your wallet.

A few things the airlines don’t want you to know

When you figure that Americans will spend more than $6 million on air travel during the holiday season, the costs can seem unavoidable. But if you follow a few simple rules, you could save hundreds.

  • Avoid buying a ticket for the Friday before Christmas
  • Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Sundays on off-peak hours
  • Search tickets for one passenger at a time—airlines tend to jack up the prices when you buy for more than one.
  • Clear your browser history, or search incognito. The more airlines learn about you, the more they learn about where your spending habits are and the more they can skew the prices based on what they know about you.

Online hacks that’ll help save your wallet

It’s a digital world. And that makes shopping a whole lot easier, but it also opens up the opportunity for huge savings.

  • Take Honey for example. It’s a Google Chrome extension that tests every coupon code available, so you don’t have to.
  • Amazon Prime is only $99/yr, and it currently gives you free shipping on a ton of things listed on the site—which has some of the most competitive prices already.
  • Deal Squad is a site that checks to make sure you’re getting the best price available—you just cut and paste the URL of the item you’re watching.

Go for thoughtful, not pricey

Putting more thought into a gift means you can spend a little less. Say your coworker loves elephants—buy him the elephant socks you know he’d never buy for himself. Same goes with magazine subscriptions. If your dad loves boating, get him a boating magazine—it’s a gift that keeps giving, year-round. Or you can gift what you’re good at—get crafty. Yeah, pecan pie bakers, we’re looking at you. Even if you’ve never tried out a DIY, it’s worth a visit to Pinterest for some inspiration. Sometimes a meaningful gift goes a lot further than one with a high price tag.

Charities need your time, not just your cash

You can give charity a hand without breaking the bank—just give some of your time. And it’s a great way to spend time with your friends and family too. You could volunteer as a group at a food shelter or soup kitchen—or you can look for local opportunities on Volunteermatch.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Ally Bank

 

Big Banks Shift to a New Fintech Strategy

Provided by CNBC

Big banks’ fintech investing strategies are shifting at a crucial time in the nascent industry’s development.

This year, big banks seem more eager to partner with or buyout startups challenging crucial lines of business in the financial services industry. It comes after years of banks’ simply being willing to buy in as minority stakeholders in startups. Fintech, or financial technology, is used to make financial services more efficient.

More recently, banks are committing big bucks to buyouts. It comes after a year in which fintech funding hit new highs. Ally Financial (ALLY) bought online brokerage TradeKing Group, the firm announced earlier this month, in a $275 million deal. BlackRock (BLK) also decided to tap into fintech, last August, with the $150 million acquisition of online investment firm FutureAdvisor.

Banks aren’t always spending to buy startups with big-name investors — or big price tags. When Goldman Sachs (GS) last month bought Honest Dollar, the Texas-based online retirement planning service, the startup had raised just $3 million in venture funding, according to Crunchbase. The bank didn’t disclose its purchase price and didn’t comment on the deal. TradeKing, as well, raised less than $10 million in venture funding, according to Crunchbase.

It isn’t just U.S. banks eager to beat back the rising tide of disruption. Spanish bank BBVA bought out Finnish banking startup Holvi last month, and didn’t disclose terms — it also wasn’t BBVA’s first deal in that sub-sector. BNP Paribas earlier this month announced a partnership with SmartAngels, a direct investing platform for crowdfunding deals, as well.

“Banks are partnering to keep in the game and keep relevant,” said Alvarez & Marsal managing director David Gibbons. “I think they’ve caught up fairly well.”

Finding partners, rather than M&A targets, is especially helpful to banks that have been squeezed out of some financial services businesses like small business lending. One investor, who asked to not be quoted, said many banks have a difficult time profitably originating small loans. JPMorgan Chase (JPM)partnered with On Deck Capital (ONDK), an online lender that has struggled since its late 2014 IPO, to generate loans to the bank’s customer base.

“Banks are already well down the road to partnering with marketplace platforms for unsecured lending,” said PricewaterhouseCoopers fintech co-lead Haskell Garfinkel. “The biggest challenge right now is to consume it, integrate it and monetize it.”

And while big banks are trying to integrate partners and investments, some may shut other startups out of customer accounts and financial data. In his annual letter to shareholders this month, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon noted unnamed third-party apps take more data than they need, and said they are “doing it for their own economic benefit.”

If banks again starts throttling apps they believe are abusing access, reverberations might have a lasting impact in Silicon Valley, where mobile banking and finance management apps are often dependent on real-time access to customers’ bank accounts. As banks sift out which businesses they must buy, which they may partner with and which they can duplicate independently, various segments of the fintech ecosystem are likely to encounter different treatment.

While financial services investors have put money into startups like MobiKwik and Square (SQ), M&A for payments-focused companies has been rare. Considering that a number of big banks banded together in February to establish the clearXchange network, which allows consumers to process transactions between smartphones without a third-party app, payments is one sub-sector of fintech that could see continuing competition from legacy players.

“It’s a race to the bottom,” said Mariano Belinky, managing partner of Santander InnoVentures, a $100 million fund operated by the Spanish bank of the same name. “We’re going to end up with payments as a free service.”

Written by Jon Marino of CNBC

(Source: MSN)

Easter by the Numbers: How Much We Spend on Flowers, Clothes and Chocolate Bunnies

Gold-wrapped Easter chocolate bunnies are displayed during the annual news conference of Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Spruengli in Kilchberg near Zurich March 10, 2015. Lindt & Spruengli said it was confident people would keep buying its sweet treats this year despite weak consumer sentiment in its key market, Europe.
REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Americans plan to spend more than ever on Easter this year, according to one survey.

Easter spending is estimated to hit $17.3 billion this year, or $146 per person on average, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. That’s up from $140.62 last year and marks the highest level in the survey’s 13-year history.

Collectively, Americans plan to spend the most on food at $5.5 billion, followed by $3 billion on clothes, $2.7 billion on gifts, $2.4 billion on candy and $1.2 billion on flowers.

The majority of consumers (58 percent) plan to do their Easter shopping at discount stores, while 41 percent will go to department stores. Almost a quarter will visit local small business, and just over a fifth intend to shop online, according to the NRF.

Millennials will spend more than any other generation on Easter, shelling out $176.90 on average, according to a separate survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers. Gen Xers plan to spend $127 and Baby Boomers say they will spend $113.70 on average. Overall, three in five American adults will spend money on Easter-related products this year.

More than half of Americans (55 percent) are planning to celebrate Easter by cooking a holiday meal, according to the NRF survey. For those making an Easter feast, the traditional baked ham will cost markedly less this year compared with 2015. Prices for bone-in ham are down 20 percent versus a year ago, according to the most recent figures from the federal government.

But egg-dyeing is more expensive, thanks to a bird flu that affected a significant number of egg-laying hens last year. Prices for eggs increased 8 percent compared with 2015, which will affect 31 percent Americans who plan on having an Easter egg hunt this year, according to the NRF.

Written by Janna Herron of Fiscal Times

(Source: The Fiscal Times)