Why you should save for something fun – messenger

Financial planners tend to have firm ideas about the most important goals: You should save for retirement, pay off debt and build an emergency fund. Buying a pair of $200 sneakers or an ultra-high definition TV is probably not on that list.

But maybe saving for something you really, really want isn’t frivolous. It may be exactly what you need to get your financial life on track.

Researchers who have studied the role of savings in financial health say what’s important is the habit of putting aside money and having a plan for that cash. People who have a planned savings habit are four times more likely to be financially healthy than those who don’t, according to a report by the nonprofit Center for Financial Services Innovation. That habit is more important than income, age or other demographic characteristics, the report found.

Saving even small amounts can help people avoid the high cost of being broke. A few hundred bucks saved may help bypass credit card debt, payday lenders, rent-to-own stores and bank overdraft fees. It can help avoid eviction, or losing a job because the car broke down. Even a thin financial cushion can help people become more financially stable.

“That ability to be resilient in the face of ups and downs is a very important component of financial health,” says John Thompson, senior vice president and head of research consulting at the Center for Financial Services Innovation. “It also helps people avoid high-cost financial services when they face a short-term challenge.”

But saving a small amount, only to see it wiped out by an unexpected expense, isn’t satisfying. Saving up to buy something we want, on the other hand, can feel like a real win — and it’s the winning that matters to our brains. Each time we anticipate getting a reward, our brains are treated to a shot of dopamine, the chemical that makes us want to repeat a pleasurable experience.

Recalling our small wins also can help us learn to persist when difficulties arise, rather than just giving up, says Michael Thomas Jr., an accredited financial counselor who advises clients at the University of Georgia’s free Aspire Clinic.

Remembering the times we’ve achieved a money-focused goal helps counteract the “negative automatic thoughts and catastrophic thinking” that keeps people from seeing progress, says Thomas, who has studied psychology and is getting his Ph.D. in financial planning and who also co-hosts “Nothing Funny About Money ,” a public radio program in Atlanta.

If people aren’t already in the habit of saving money, their goal doesn’t need to be lofty — and perhaps shouldn’t be. Being told to save $1 million for retirement or three months’ worth of expenses for emergencies could cause them to give up in despair.

“When I’m starting from zero, those seem like magical, fantastical, unattainable sums of money,” Thompson says. “How would you begin is a daunting challenge.”

What may be worse is telling non-savers that they need to put aside money for retirement and emergencies and a host of other goals. Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found people were much more likely to save money when presented with a single goal. When contemplating multiple goals, people considered the trade-offs and put off taking action, the researchers found.

Letting people set their own goals also may goose savings habits. WiseBanyan, a digital investing site, found the percentage of customers who set up automatic savings plans increased about 50 percent after it allowed them to create their own milestones or goals, whether retirement, a trip around the world or a new wardrobe, says chief operating officer and co-founder Vicki Zhou .

“When you personalize it, the way you think about it changes,” Zhou says.

That’s not to say people should save only for the fun stuff and ignore their long-term financial health. But the fun stuff can be a powerful motivator.

“The behavior of savings is what we’re trying to encourage,” Thompson says. “It’s not that we’re suggesting (saving for emergencies and retirement) isn’t important, but before that comes the behavior.”

______________________________________________________________________________

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston.

RELATED LINKS:

NerdWallet: Pay off your debt

https://nerd.me/steps-pay-off-debt

Center for Financial Services Innovation: Understanding and improving consumer financial health in America

https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/foundation/understanding-and-improving-consumer-financial-health-in-america.pdf

Personal Finance for Those Who Don’t Have a Clue

The design by Lauren Ver Hage, who gets billing on the cover, also helps make the book appealing by making important ideas and intriguing thoughts jump out. For example, this sentence gets its own page: “The scariest thing about buying a home, in a lot of ways, is that it requires you do a not-insignificant amount of math.”

Widespread Appeal

So many finance books are relentlessly masculine in tone and focus that it’s worth mentioning that this one skews female: Most of the experts quoted are women, and many references, to television shows like “Sex and the City,” appear to be oriented toward women, too. But her advice is universal.

For example, she suggests saving a combined 20 percent of your income for both short and long-term goals. And, she notes, “Saving, living below your means, and diversifying your income often make the difference between being stuck in a job you can’t stand and having the freedom to move on to something better.” These ideas apply to just about everyone.

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So why does she not get a higher grade? For two interrelated reasons that boil down to this: She seems to advocate putting too much money into investments that are too conservative for younger investors.

The good news is Ms. Fagan is terrific about emphasizing the need to save. Early on, she creates “A Bank Account Pyramid,” explaining where to put the money and when, and she also makes saving money a significant part of a five-point plan that she describes as “The Total Idiot’s Guide to Investing.”

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But if you look at both, it is easy to see the two problems.

A Few Flaws

The pyramid starts out with a strong base: Have a basic savings account to house your emergency fund.

But it gets shakier from there. In the next layer up, she calls for putting money in certificates of deposit, which are “good for things like saving to buy a house in the next few years and other medium-term savings.”

Certainly, you don’t want your down payment to disappear in a market crash the day before the money is due. But having all your money tied up in low-yielding C.D.s for more than three years before you buy a home will make it hard for your money to grow. As I write this, a three-year C.D. yields about just 2.2 percent and a five-year one isn’t much better, 2.6 percent. (Three to five years would seem to fit within Ms. Fagan’s definition of medium-term savings.)

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So her argument about where to put money for medium-term objectives is debatable — my position would be to hold some stock, shifting the money to more conservative investments as your goal draws nigh. For example, have 100 percent of the money in equities when the goal is five years out; 60 percent in equities and 40 percent in short-term bond funds and C.D.s if you will need the money in 36 months, and only move all the money into short-term C.D.s a year before you have to write the check.

Ms. Fagan goes on to say that after putting cash into an emergency fund and buying C.D.s for short and intermediate goals, the rest of your savings should be in “longer term investments.” Like what? She doesn’t say. A 30-year bond would qualify, but it’s an awfully conservative place for a millennial investor saving for the long-term.

The same flaw exists in her investment guide. Her first two points are great. Again, it starts with the emergency fund, followed by working hard to pay off nondeductible debt. That is sound advice. But after that, things get squishy.

Her third point about opening a retirement account is fine as far as it goes, but where do you put that money? Ms. Fagan doesn’t tell us.

And her last point is confusing. After taking the first three steps, she writes, “Explore other low-risk options such as mutual funds and index funds.” Now on the surface that’s just wrong. Mutual funds and index funds that invest in equities, and bonds for that matter, have risk. As the prospectus of each always points out, you can lose money.

Giving Ms. Fagan the benefit of the doubt, I think she was trying to say that index funds and other mutual funds carry less risk to your portfolio than investing in individual stocks.

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However, there are fixed- income mutual funds that offer low yields. Simply saying invest in mutual funds is not helpful.

But to be fair, Ms. Fagan did not set out to write the definitive investment book, and she emphasizes throughout that if you are confused, “It’s worth it to pay professionals” to help you with things “you don’t know how to do and will put off until it’s too late.” These quibbles aside, for the most part her advice and conclusions are solid.

“We live in a world that encourages us to spend wastefully, accumulate more than we need, and put off things like retirement saving until … we are basically retired,” she says. ”

Anything that can help improve matters is a good thing.


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Mark Cuban: The 3 best tips to save more money in 2018

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Money

9:00 AM ET Tue, 26 Dec 2017

Mark Cuban

1. Ditch the plastic

Step one in Cuban’s playbook: “Don’t use credit cards,” Cuban tells CNBC Make It.

“If you use a credit card, you don’t want to be rich,” Cuban writes in a 2008 blog post.

It was a lesson he learned the hard way. “I would charge something and think I would be able to pay it off and then not be able to. I can’t tell you how many credit cards I had ripped up,” he tells Money.

“[T]he 18 percent or 20 percent or 30 percent you’re paying in credit card debt is going to cost you a lot more than you could ever earn anywhere else.” On average, credit cards charge 16.7 percent interest, according to Bankrate.com.

Fellow “Shark Tank” investor Robert Herjavec agrees.

“When I was young, I would carry a balance on my credit card,” Herjavec tells CNBC Make It. “My advice — pay off your credit cards every month and therefore pay no interest. Credit card interest is probably the most expensive loan you could ever get.”

2. Watch your spending

“Be a smart shopper,” Cuban tells CNBC Make It.

“You will quickly find that the greatest rate of return you will earn is on your own personal spending,” he writes on his blog.

“Save your money. Save as much money as you possibly can. Every penny you can. Instead of coffee, drink water,” he writes. “Instead of going to McDonald’s, eat mac and cheese.”

Cuban also suggests things like buying two years’ worth of toothpaste when it’s 50 percent off. “There’s an immediate return on your money,” he tells Vanity Fair.

Cuban’s “Shark Tank” co-star Kevin O’Leary takes a similar tactic. He refuses to spend $2.50 on a cup of coffee.

“Do I pay $2.50 for a coffee? Never, never, never do I do that,” O’Leary tells CNBC Make It. “That is such a waste of money for something that costs 20 cents. I never buy a frape-latte-blah-blah-blah-woof-woof-woof for $2.50.”

He makes coffee at home, and puts his savings to work in the stock market.

“I drink coffee, one cup every morning,” he explains. “It costs about 18 cents to make it, and I invest the rest.”





Disclaimer: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

Ali Montag

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Why you should save for something fun – Wilkes Barre Times

Financial planners tend to have firm ideas about the most important goals: You should save for retirement, pay off debt and build an emergency fund. Buying a pair of $200 sneakers or an ultra-high definition TV is probably not on that list.

But maybe saving for something you really, really want isn’t frivolous. It may be exactly what you need to get your financial life on track.

Researchers who have studied the role of savings in financial health say what’s important is the habit of putting aside money and having a plan for that cash. People who have a planned savings habit are four times more likely to be financially healthy than those who don’t, according to a report by the nonprofit Center for Financial Services Innovation. That habit is more important than income, age or other demographic characteristics, the report found.

Saving even small amounts can help people avoid the high cost of being broke. A few hundred bucks saved may help bypass credit card debt, payday lenders, rent-to-own stores and bank overdraft fees. It can help avoid eviction, or losing a job because the car broke down. Even a thin financial cushion can help people become more financially stable.

“That ability to be resilient in the face of ups and downs is a very important component of financial health,” says John Thompson, senior vice president and head of research consulting at the Center for Financial Services Innovation. “It also helps people avoid high-cost financial services when they face a short-term challenge.”

But saving a small amount, only to see it wiped out by an unexpected expense, isn’t satisfying. Saving up to buy something we want, on the other hand, can feel like a real win — and it’s the winning that matters to our brains. Each time we anticipate getting a reward, our brains are treated to a shot of dopamine, the chemical that makes us want to repeat a pleasurable experience.

Recalling our small wins also can help us learn to persist when difficulties arise, rather than just giving up, says Michael Thomas Jr., an accredited financial counselor who advises clients at the University of Georgia’s free Aspire Clinic.

Remembering the times we’ve achieved a money-focused goal helps counteract the “negative automatic thoughts and catastrophic thinking” that keeps people from seeing progress, says Thomas, who has studied psychology and is getting his Ph.D. in financial planning and who also co-hosts “Nothing Funny About Money ,” a public radio program in Atlanta.

If people aren’t already in the habit of saving money, their goal doesn’t need to be lofty — and perhaps shouldn’t be. Being told to save $1 million for retirement or three months’ worth of expenses for emergencies could cause them to give up in despair.

“When I’m starting from zero, those seem like magical, fantastical, unattainable sums of money,” Thompson says. “How would you begin is a daunting challenge.”

What may be worse is telling non-savers that they need to put aside money for retirement and emergencies and a host of other goals. Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found people were much more likely to save money when presented with a single goal. When contemplating multiple goals, people considered the trade-offs and put off taking action, the researchers found.

Letting people set their own goals also may goose savings habits. WiseBanyan, a digital investing site, found the percentage of customers who set up automatic savings plans increased about 50 percent after it allowed them to create their own milestones or goals, whether retirement, a trip around the world or a new wardrobe, says chief operating officer and co-founder Vicki Zhou .

“When you personalize it, the way you think about it changes,” Zhou says.

That’s not to say people should save only for the fun stuff and ignore their long-term financial health. But the fun stuff can be a powerful motivator.

“The behavior of savings is what we’re trying to encourage,” Thompson says. “It’s not that we’re suggesting (saving for emergencies and retirement) isn’t important, but before that comes the behavior.”

Liz Weston

Guest Columnist

Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lwestonnerdwallet.com. Twitter: lizweston.

Six ideas for new homeowners



We all make New Year’s resolutions, but let’s be honest: Most are wishful thinking. By February, that “lose 20 pounds” or “learn Spanish” resolution has gone right out the window.

But not for you, new homeowner. This year is different.

Your first 12 months of homeownership set the tone for the entire journey. With just a few smart decisions, you can save money now and get more out of your investment later.

So make room on that list between “run a 5K” and “travel more.” Here are six essential New Year’s resolutions for new homeowners.

1. START AN EMERGENCY FUND

Homeownership has a funny way of costing more than you think. An emergency savings fund provides a financial safety net, and your new home is the perfect reason to start one.

Remember, if the furnace quits on a cold night, there’s no landlord to call. Laid off unexpectedly or surprised by major car repairs? Mortgage payments are still expected on time and in full. Without an emergency fund, these expenses could force you into credit card debt or worse.

Ideally, your emergency fund should cover several months of expenses, but it’s OK to start small. Set aside a portion of every paycheck with the goal of saving $500 as quickly as possible, and then contribute as much as you can moving forward.

2. TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT YOUR HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

Just because a standard homeowners insurance policy satisfied your lender doesn’t mean you’re adequately covered.

“Homeowners insurance isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are unique coverage options and, more importantly, ‘exclusions’ that homeowners need to be aware of,” says Ryan Andrew, president of The Andrew Agency, an independent insurance agency in Richmond, Virginia.

Does your policy cover the full cost of your jewelry or other valuables? Are disasters like earthquakes and floods excluded? Will the policy pay if your dog bites the new mailman?

“Your home is usually your biggest asset,” Andrew says. “Spend a few minutes reviewing your coverage and exclusions, and ask questions so you understand your policy.”

3. GET AN ENERGY EFFICIENCY AUDIT

Heating, cooling and powering a home isn’t cheap. Why be uncomfortable or spend more because your house wastes energy?

After the dust settles, you may notice more about your home, particularly if you bought new construction, says Jessie Ferguson, director of operations at Renewablue, a home energy consulting company. Maybe the air smells funny or one bedroom is colder than the others. She recommends getting an energy efficiency audit rather than guessing at the problem.

Using blower door tests and infrared cameras, energy audits measure air leaks and detect air infiltration or missing insulation. Audits are performed by utility companies, city governments and some contractors.

“An energy audit is an inexpensive way to get real information about your house. They’ll tell you which fixes will deliver the best bang for your buck,” Ferguson says.

In addition to lowering your utility bills and making you more comfortable, a more efficient home may end up putting free money in your pocket, thanks to local, state and federal rebates.

4. CONSIDER A HOME WARRANTY

If the appliances in your new home are near the end of their life cycles, a home warranty may help shield you from the cost of replacement.

Also called home service contracts, home warranties are annual agreements that offset the repair or replacement cost of major home components and appliances.

Approach home warranty companies with caution, however. Read customer reviews and avoid gimmicks that seem too good to be true. Like insurance policies, home warranties are full of fine print, and homeowners often fail to realize what’s excluded until they try to make a claim.

“They can be helpful in the first year of homeownership, when you have so many other things to think about and pay for,” Ferguson says of home warranties. “Just make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.”

5. CREATE A DISASTER KIT WITH A HOME INVENTORY

Your new home is your castle, but it’s not indestructible. A disaster kit that includes financial documents and a home inventory will speed up recovery if the unthinkable happens.

A home inventory can be as simple as snapping pictures of big-ticket items in your home, or you could record items, brands, original prices, ages and condition in a spreadsheet.

No matter which method you choose, a home inventory is the best way to make sure you have enough insurance coverage to replace your valuables, Andrew says.

Store the inventory, along with copies of your personal identification, credit card information, vehicle records and other important documents, in a fireproof safe or another place that’s easily accessible if you have to evacuate.

6. MAKE A PLAN TO BUILD EQUITY

Unless you bought your home with cash, it will be many years until you own it outright. Make plans now to build equity faster so you can unlock more benefits of homeownership even sooner.

Equity is a fancy word for “how much of your house is paid off.” Home equity is a valuable asset; accrue enough and you can use it to finance major renovations or pay off student loans.

You can build equity slowly just by making your monthly mortgage payments, or you can find ways to speed up the process. For example, take on smart home improvements or switch to biweekly payments to get “equity rich” even faster.

This article originally appeared on the personal finance website NerdWallet. Beth Buczynski is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: bbuczynski@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @bethbuczynski.

RELATED LINKS:

NerdWallet: Emergency fund: What it is and where to keep it

https://nerd.me/emergency-fund

NerdWallet: Understanding homeowners insurance

https://nerd.me/homeowners-insurance

NerdWallet: Are home warranties worth the cost?

https://nerd.me/home-warranties

NerdWallet: 6 ways to build your home equity (and savings) faster

https://nerd.me/build-home-equity

Clifton Park is saving big on energy costs and looking for more ideas



CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. The town saved $49,000 in energy costs in 2017 in the first year of operation of a solar array on top of the town’s capped landfill. The success of the first year of operation has stirred ideas on how to save more.

The one-megawatt system with its more than 3,000 solar panels first began to generate energy on Dec. 2, 2016, according to a town announcement of the savings.

Energy collected in the solar powered system is delivered to the general electric grid through a partnership with National Grid. The town gets credits for the energy which, in turn, results in a reduction of its energy expenses.

The solar panels were installed on top of the landfill at no cost to the town through a competitive NYSERDA (New York State Energy Development Authority) grant program. The town partnered with the company GroSolar to install the system. The company, now operated by Onyx Renewable Partners, is responsible for operation and maintenance of the system.

“The Town Board is pleased with the savings the town has realized from the solar system in its first year of operation,” said Supervisor Phil Barrett. “We achieved our goal of converting a useless piece of property into a revenue generator for the town resulting in a decrease of our energy costs.”

In discussing the savings, Barrett said the town is taking additional steps to reduce its energy footprint and save taxpayers money. One way is to replace the lighting the town ice arena with LED technology and perhaps, in the lights on the Common.

The cost of making the changes will be covered by a $50,000 grant the town received recently. At the first Town Board meeting of the year the board put out a Request For Proposal for the ice arena’s lighting changes.

“That’s a new opportunity that was created through state legislation and we believe it’s an opportunity that we should pursue because there are significant energy savings to the town if we can consummate a successful agreement,” Barrett said. “The first part of that is the RFP process that we are in now.”

Barrett said the grant must be used for something that reduces carbon emissions or energy use so changing the current lighting in the ice rink with all its lights will save the town a significant amount of money in the future.

“We believe the best investment of those funds is to reduce energy usage and save taxpayers money. The ice arena is a terrific candidate,” he said.

Another opportunity for energy savings is to do the same with the street lamps in town. Barrett said the town has 600 of them.

However, they are owned and operated by National Grid. They own the light poles and charge the town a maintenance fee. The energy the lights use is billed to the town.

“We’re looking to purchase the light pole arm with the light part and replace all the current lights with LED lighting,” Barrett said.

Estimates that the town has run show a significant savings to the town in the future by reducing energy usage. Those estimates include the cost of the lights and a maintenance contract.

“The estimates show a significant financial savings by making the purchase,” Barrett said. “At first I was very skeptical. Will there really be savings with all the expenses incurred? But with the estimates we have, the answer is yes.”

An RFP has already been put out for making the light pole lamp changes and doing the maintenance.

Barrett said he not aware of any other municipalities in the area that has made the move and purchased the light pole sections though some in the state are said to be looking into it.

“We won’t take any action until we see hard figures but if they come in as expected, hopefully, we can move to the next step,” he said. “All these projects fit into our goals of reducing expenses for the town.”

Fort Bend ISD officials continue exploring money-saving options to make up for 2017-18 budget deficit

FBISD adopted a $12 million budget deficit into its fiscal year 2017-18 budget in June.

WHAT WE REPORTED: The school district faces a budget shortfall of $12 million in its fiscal year 2017-18 budget due to legislative inaction, FBISD Budget Director Bryan Guinn said. Focus groups have generated several ideas to help close the budget gap, including conserving energy, reallocating teachers between campuses, evaluating free and reduced cost lunch programs, and eliminating unnecessary vacant positions. As FBISD officials engage with the community and meet with stakeholder groups, they will continue discussions regarding potential solutions and present these ideas to residents for input and feedback starting in January, Guinn said.

THE LATEST: FBISD staff has updated the prioritized list of budget efficiency ideas generated from feedback provided by employees and community members, Superintendent Charles Dupre stated in a post on the FBISD website Dec. 15. The top priority item concerns—energy conservation and efforts—will be implemented immediately, Dupre said. Energy conservation company Cenergistic indicated the school district can save at least $1.5 million in the first year of implementation. Other ideas identified on the list include limiting the usage of outside consultants, lowering certain departmental budgets, decreasing printed materials and distribution, reducing staff travel costs, and increasing some charges and fees.

WHAT’S NEXT: Staff members and officials are still studying cost estimates and the overall effects of enforcing these ideas, Dupre said.

“Not all of the items that remain on the prioritized list will move forward for implementation,” he said. “In several cases, I am appointing task forces to explore the potential impacts implementation of the ideas will have on our district as they relate to student achievement.”

This story is one update from The January Issue. View the full list of Top 7 stories to follow in 2018 here.

5 ways to save more money in 2018

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VISIT CNBC.COM


Money

9:00 AM ET Thu, 21 Dec 2017



25 successful leaders give kids their best money-saving tips


Challenge yourself to zero-spend days

David of Zero Day Finance, who goes by only his first name online, uses a simple strategy to minimize his spending. The 26-year-old New Yorker commits to at least one “zero spend” day a week, during which he actively avoids buying anything, including a morning coffee or an item from the drug store.

David tracks his progress with the challenge on his blog, where he “collects” zero spend days and pushes himself to fit as many of them as possible into a week. By gamifying his spending, he stays motivated to save.

Since starting the challenge six months ago, David has saved $18,432, cutting his monthly spending from around $4,700 to $3,170. That’s a 33 percent decrease and saves him enough to max out his 401(k).



One simple going-out rule saves this reporter $3,600 each year


Cut out convenience

You’re not going to go broke buying coffee every morning. But if you’re hitting Starbucks, taking cabs and ordering takeout on a regular basis, it can start to make a dent in your budget. As financial expert and former CNBC television host Suze Orman says of costs like daily lattes and avocado toast: “It adds up big time.”

“Stop leasing cars, stop eating out, stop doing the things that’s wasting your money and makes your life easier, because in the long run it’s going to make it harder,” Orman told CNBC’s “Power Lunch” in June.

Take inventory of your spending habits and decide what’s worth the price of convenience and where you can make some cuts. Your morning latte might be worth giving up your Uber habit.

Pause before checkout

Cherie and Brian Lowe paid off more than $127,000 in debt in four years by working to both increase their income and pare down their expenses. While many larger factors contributed to their success, including building an emergency fund and rejiggering their tax withholdings, Cherie’s No. 1 money-saving trick is simple.

“Every time you check out at the grocery store, you need to look in your cart and find three to five items that you don’t need,” she tells CNBC Make It. “You will save $5 to $10 every time you shop without cutting a single coupon.”

The tactic, which could apply to online purchases as easily as in-person ones, works because it puts a barrier between placing items in your cart and actually paying for them. That shaves down your bills.



Cherie Lowe's number one savings tip to conquer $127K of debt




Here's how much you need to save starting at age 30 to retire by age 67


Emmie Martin

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Ready for the 2018 tax season? It starts Jan. 29, and here’s why you should file early.


(Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

My grandmother Big Mama hated being late. She paid her bills well in advance of the due dates. She left for appointments super early.

“If you’re on time, you’re late,” Big Mama would say.

So for you on-time folks, take note, the IRS says the official start of the 2018 tax season is Jan. 29. If you’re a procrastinator, you have two extra days to file. Returns are not due until April 17.

The agency said it expects to get nearly 155 million individual tax returns this year. There is good reason to not procrastinate in filing your tax return. You don’t want identity thieves to beat you to it.

Read: Why you should file your taxes ASAP

The IRS has been working with state revenue departments and the tax preparation industry as part of an initiative to tax related identity theft.

Read: Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft

Don’t forget that more than 145.5 million Americans had their Social Security numbers and other key personal information stolen when credit bureau Equifax was hacked last year.

“Even those who haven’t been directly affected by the Equifax breach could be a victim of tax identity theft,” reported Maryalene LaPonsie of U.S. News World Report. Prior security breaches have occurred at Target, Yahoo and LinkedIn, among other places. Paul Gevertzman, partner with accounting firm Anchin, Block and Anchin in New York City told LaPonsie, “You can just assume your information has been compromised.”

Eva Velasquez, chief executive and president, Identity Theft Resource Center said on CNBC: “Our motto is, file first and beat the crooks. It does have an impact. You are not giving them an open window.”

Here’s something to consider writes CNBC Kelli Grant: Having a credit freeze or other monitoring in place does not prevent tax-related identity theft. Crooks mostly just need your Social Security number, not information in your credit file, to submit a bogus tax return.

Read more: Your next worry after the Equifax breach: Fake tax returns

Also: Senators want ‘massive’ fines for data breaches at Equifax and other credit reporting firms

Color of Money question of the week
Are you planning to file earlier than you usually do because of concerns about identity theft? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state.

Live chat today
Let’s talk retirement. My guest today will be Jean C. Setzfand, senior vice president of AARP programs that produce interactive educational programming designed to address health, wealth and personal enrichment concerns for people over 50.

Join the live discussion from noon to 1 p.m. Here’s the link to participate in the chat.

Who do you want to teach your children about money?
For last week’s question I asked: Who taught you the most about money?

Ellen Rittenhouse of Kent, Minn., wrote, “As a child growing up in the ’40s and ’50s my parents were my role models for money management. Living in a rural community I saw my mother raise a big garden and store food for the winter, raise chickens for meat and eggs to sell to cover the cost of basics such as flour, sugar, etc. It was only when I left for college that I realized that we were ‘poor’ in the money sense. I had learned how to survive quite well with the little money I earned with part-time work. When I married, I was blessed with a husband who had also learned the value of money so we managed quite well on meager income and were able to model good money management skills for our children. It was also my experience that schools did not provide an education in money management other than basic math. Now in my senior years, I still rely on the example I learned in childhood.”

“My best money manager was my daddy,” wrote frequent commentor Lorna Gilkey of Alexandria, Va. “He is the epitome of financial responsibility. As a teenager, when I would complain about wanting something frivolous, he’d say, ‘When I’m dead and gone, you’ll be glad I saved my money.’ Well, I thank God daily that he isn’t dead and gone. And also that he’s 76 and living well and does as he pleases because he was responsible with his money in preparing for retirement. I didn’t always do as well until four years ago when I got your book (‘Power to Prosper’) and did the 21-day fast. That fast hurt my feelings but also got me on track so I’ve done it again each year. Now I’m debt free, paying a ‘car note’ to my savings, still tithing and preparing to be like my daddy when I retire. And, I’m setting an example for my sons to do the same (I hope).”

Evelyn Bonds in Tennessee wrote, “I had the privilege of having two parents who were opposite in their attitude about money and their ideas about spending and saving. My father was the more generous of the two. He was not a spendthrift; he was just more willing to spend money on purchases such as a car or furnishings. He was also more generous with us kids. Our mother on the other hand, was quite a bit stingier and seemed unwilling to spend money on anything. They were both products of the Depression era, so you would think that both of them would have approached spending and saving in a similar manner. But my mother seemed to be rather stuck in that mind-set, and this colored all of her financial decisions. I came out of this environment with what I think is the best features of each parent. I have never been one to spend every last penny, but I do make purchases that allow me to live comfortably and travel when I desire to. I, along with my husband, try to have a good balance of saving and spending, and we are both generous with our time and money for charitable causes, including our churches.”

Jean L. Potuchek of Poland, Maine, wrote, “When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, my father was paid each week on Thursday. He would stop at the bank on the way home to cash his paycheck and then spend much of the evening sitting at the dining room table distributing the cash into budget envelopes. The last step in this weekly budgeting process was to put out the piles of coins for each of the children’s allowances. I don’t know if he did it this way to ensure that we children were glued to his side through the entire process and learned how to budget, but that was the effect!”

Color of Money columns this week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.

Stay informed about your money.

In addition to this newsletter, read and share my weekly personal finance columns.

The great Social Security benefits debate: Take it early or wait?

If college is ahead, so are hard choices

Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.

Follow Michelle Singletary on Twitter @SingletaryM and on Facebook.

7 Creative Ways For Your Small Business To Save Money

As a small business owner you need to be extremely frugal over how you manage your funds. Lack of or misuse of capital is one of the main reasons why companies fail today. That said, priority number one should be to save money.

While some ideas will save more money than others you need to understand that every little bit counts. If it saves money it’s worth it (generally speaking).

Here are seven creative ways for your small business to save money:

1. Communal Advertising

Marketing can get very expensive for small businesses. Without large mailing lists or exposure it can cost thousands before you see any bit of return. If you’re in good standing with local businesses you may want to consider advertising alongside them.

If applicable you can share distribution channels, mailing lists, and suppliers with businesses offering complimentary goods and services.

2. Use Website Builders

If you’re looking to build a website or even an online store you should absolutely use a website builder rather than hiring a developer. Platforms like Squarespace are great for any small business owner looking to get a bit of online exposure.

If you’re looking to build an online store use a platform like Shopify. These solutions allow you to build and run an ecommerce business with close to no technical ability.

3. Volunteer to Speak at Industry Events

If you consider yourself an expert in the field then you should try to impart that knowledge on others. One great way to do so is to volunteer to speak at industry events or conferences.

This is a great way to get (free) exposure for both your personal brand and your business.

4. Avoid Full-Time Office Space

Thanks to so much great technology the majority of internet businesses can be run remotely. If you’re in retail then this tip doesn’t necessarily apply to you.

If you don’t work in retail you should try to stay mobile as long as possible. Signing a lease on a office space can be extremely expensive.

Pro Tip: If you have the space, convert a space in your apartment or house into your office space. Then you can save double and write-off part of your rent as a business expense.

5. Buy Used Office Equipment

If and when you decide to move into an office you should definitely look to purchase used equipment. Anything from monitors to office chairs you can find them for a fraction of the price at used equipment stores.

New shiny gear may look nice but an empty bank account doesn’t. Remember, only spend on what you need and delay gratification.

6. Use Freelancers and Contractors

Full time employees cost a pretty penny these days. Yes, ideally you start to build out your workforce with motivated and loyal employees. However you should use freelancers and independent contractors until you’re stable.

Onboarding and training an employee takes time and money. An independent contractor is already an expert in the field and will only charge you for tasks you really need done.

7. Barter

Bartering is one of the best ways to save money as a small business. Think about it. Nearly every other small business is in a similar position as you are. Strapped for cash. That said it’s in both of your best interest to barter for goods and services.

If you’re an accounting firm that needs design services you should offer to handle their finances in exchange for some design work. Every time you need a specific good or service always look to barter first. It won’t always work but it’s always worth a shot.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to saving money there are hundreds of different things you can do. As I mentioned above some will yield better results than others. That said if it saves money it’s probably still worth it. Try the seven strategies listed above – your bottom line will thank me later!

This article was originally published on Due.com.