As the holiday season quickly approaches, giving is on the top of many peoples’ list. After finding the perfect gifts for your family and friends don’t forget to support your favorite cause.
Charitable giving generally increases in December as people prepare for the year end. This can make a huge difference during tax season, when you can receive deductions based on your charitable contributions. As you wrap up your holiday shopping, and begin to look for other ways to give back, keep these things in mind:
Choose a cause you care about
It’s important to choose carefully when donating to charities. As a donor you should take into consideration the type of organization you want to support, the organization’s history with financial stewardship and organizational success. Keeping these things in mind will help you choose a charity that will use your gift to make a lasting impact.
Monetary gifts go a long way
Giving a monetary gift to an organization without receiving anything in return is the simplest form of charitable giving. Donating property can also fall into the same category. It’s important to keep a bank record showing the name of the charitable organization and the date and amount of the contribution when making this type of donation. You will need those records to claim your charitable giving deductions during tax season.
Money isn’t the only thing you can give
If you’re unable to donate a monetary gift, you may still be able to do some year-end charitable giving. In-kind donations are donations of goods rather than cash. Donation of services can also be considered in-kind, but that type of giving is not tax-deductible.
Each time you donate any type of goods to an organization, like used clothes or furniture you can write off the fair market value of your donation. The fair market value is the price your donation would sell for in the open market. In-kind gifts allow organizations to provide resources for the causes they serve.
Remember, any charitable contributions you make for the upcoming tax year must be complete by December 31. Give back and don’t miss out on your chance to help others and save a little as well.
Last week I had the opportunity to join a group of amazing entrepreneurs for the launch of our new book: Entrepreneurship: My Story, Your Guide. The event took place in Atlanta, GA at the beautiful Sheraton Suites Galleria. As always, I made sure to travel smart without breaking the bank. Here are a few ways I made the trip for under $150:
I used airline points to cover the departing flight from Connecticut to Atlanta and paid $75 for the returning flight from Atlanta to Connecticut.
I used points for the hotel room too. So glad Marriott and Starwood (SPG) merged! I had to link my Marriott and Starwood reward accounts then transfer the points from Marriott to Starwood (I guess when the hotel chains merged in September of last year, I had not done that as of yet). Those small and quick things to get the room for free = $0
On the first day my husband dropped me off at the airport in Connecticut and friend in Atlanta picked me up and drove me to the hotel. Later that evening I used the hotel shuttle to go to dinner and a fellow speaker of the event (Whitley Nicely), gave me a ride back to the hotel.
The second day of my trip a friend and his wife picked me up from the hotel and drove me to church and later a person from the church dropped me off at the airport. When I arrived back in Connecticut my husband picked me up.
There were great food choices in the area of the event and I made sure to take advantage of the options while still saving. On the first day I grabbed a free coffee thanks to my Starbucks Reward points and added a bagel for only $3.99. For lunch I picked up soup for $9.48 including the tip. Dinner was at Copelands and included an appetizer and entree for $22.15.
On the second day I had two coffees for $6.22, breakfast for $4.24 and a snack for $2.29. I ended the day with Phillips Seafood at the airport for $9.63 including the tip and a Pepsi for $2.69.
The grand total for my entire trip was $131.45! I encourage you to enroll in the hotel, airline, coffee, restaurant, and rental car free reward points programs. Be sure to monitor your points to ensure you get your proper credit after each stay or purchase. Once you have accumulated reward points, you may be able to save on your next get-away. Overall, the event, networking opportunities, brainstorming sessions in the lobby and over dinner were priceless!
If you have similar travel saving stories please share.
The holidays are a special time of year for sharing good cheer, great food and generous gifts with the ones we love. But before you head over to the nearest shopping mall or plan that extravagant holiday party, consider how you could save some cash this holiday season.
Here are a few ways to keep your spending in order through December:
Set a holiday spending budget
When it comes to the word “budget” many people often think of complicated spreadsheets and restrictions, but that doesn’t have to be the case. A budget will help you set boundaries on your spending and ensure there no surprises at the end of the year. No matter how big or small your holiday spending budget, make sure it is realistic.
Plan your shopping-make a list
Shopping for the ones you love may lead to overspending. To help avoid going over budget make a shopping list. On your list include the individuals you plan to shop for and a budget for each person. This will also help you narrow down who really needs a gift and who could receive a special phone call or card instead.
Many holiday deals start following Veterans’ Day. Don’t miss out on savings by waiting until the last minute to do your shopping. Starting early will help you stick to your shopping list and allow you to shop around for the best deal.
Remember, making your money stretch during the holidays comes down to preparation. If you set your budget, make a plan and start early you can avoid excessive spending and bring in the New Year stress free when it comes to your money.
Need more tips on making your money work for you? Sign up for the It’$ My Money™ Newsletter on the home page.
Schools’ Out! It’s the perfect time for teens to earn some cash. Just last year – more than 40% of teens had summer jobs. The first part is getting the job – the second is saving your paychecks.
Waiting tables and housekeeping brought in the most money for teens last summer, there is also the option of negotiating pay at a summer internship.
These are the industries hiring teens (16-19 year olds) the most:
• Leisure and Hospitality (41%)
• Retail (21%)
• Education and Health Services (11%)
• Manufacturing (5%)
Here are some tips to help teens get a job.
Start a Resume – It’s never too early! Even high schoolerswithout formal job experience can impress employers with professional-looking résumés. They can list unpaid internships, extracurricular activities, volunteer stints, and classwork related to the prospective job, says Lindsey Pollak, a career advisor and author of Getting From College to Career.
Use Online Job Sites – LinkedIn and Indeed have proved to be the most effective for teens seeking part time work.
You can use these sites to search for online jobs and easily apply. Another option is to use social media. Let your online network know you’re looking – you never know who may be able to help.
Try Traditional Summer Jobs - Many families are still looking for baby-sitters, dog-sitters/walkers and lawn mowers. There are websites like Care.com that will help you upload babysitting profile and meet new parents.
Try Virtual Work – Are you good with computers? A lot of small businesses seek young professionals to organize their files, send emails and create excel reports. Use the computer skills you learned in school to make some well earned cash.
Get Ready for The Job Interview – Practice makes perfect. Don’t wait until you get the interview to do a trial run. As you hope for the best, find a professional outfit and do a mock up interview with an adult you look up to. Tips: Look the employer in the eye, be enthusiastic, be confident and have a firm handshake.
Once you get the job, because we know you will! (We’re rooting for you) It’s important that you save!! Who wants to work all summer and have nothing to show for it?
A great way to do this – is to have a family member purchase you a copy of It’$ My Money –Vol 1 of the finance guided series. You can send them a link to our site for easy purchase. Read the book on break or add it to your summer reading list to share with your teacher.
Good luck this summer!
Budgeting can be hard – but, the benefits are endless. As you practice becoming the budgeting queen/king you are, how about checking out some of these highly rated apps. Below you can explore and discover what is the best budgeting app for you:
MINT Budgeting App
Why MINT? It takes the hassle out of making and planning your budget. MINT connects to your bank account and uses your details to help you create a personalized budget.
You’ll be happy to know the Mint app uses the same security as banks and services such as TurboTax and Quicken – ensuring that all steps will be taken to secure your account.
With Mint, you’ll get alerted to unusual charges and it will customize your budget as you improve.
This iPhone, iPad and Android-friendly app also allows you to store all the data on your computer so that you always have it backed up in a safe place.
Digit is a new micro-savings account app designed to help you save small bits of money over time. Best described as “putting your saving on autopilot, to return to a pile of cash”. And, yes it’s completely safe and verified with your bank.
If you’re not a finance freak, the app does all the work for you; evaluating your spending habits and notifying you through text how much you saved over time.
• Save Without Thinking – Once you set up Digit it's easy to set-and-forget your savings with them. Next thing you know, you have some vacation, or fun money, saved up.
• $5 Referral Per Signup - Get $5 per every friend you refer to Digit.co's service
• Cannot Perform Transactions via the Web Site - You cannot make deposits or withdraw money via the web site.
• Not for Long-term Savings – Digit won't make you rich and it's more difficult to save money towards a larger goal, like buying a home, or retirement.
YNAB - You Need A Budget
It’s the truth! – But, it’s also the name of the next app we’re exploring. This app focuses on specific rules to help you get your finances in order. Give every dollar a job, plan for infrequent expenses, roll with the punches if you overspend and learn how to live on last month's income.
YNAB (You Need A Budget) will build a plan for you and there are online finance classes for you to watch (free with service).
The cost $5/month or $50/year. The best part is before you commit – you have 34 days to try it for free.
You know the old-school method of saving? Where you put the money you don’t want to spend in an envelope (give it to a friend/spouse) to hold for good measure.
Well, GoodBudget is the digital version of just that. The app can help you learn how to save for big purchases and actually put that plan into place so you can save for vacation or a new car.
This iPhone and Android-friendly app costs $15 for three months or $24 for six months of a pro subscriptions that deliver more envelopes, budget history, accounts and devices.
Those are the top three we’ve seen based on buzz – but there are lot’s more.
If you’ve tried any of these, comment with your favorite and let us know how you get better with budgeting.
April is officially Financial Literacy Month! Make it a tradition to celebrate with the children in your family and lead the way to maintaining healthy money management habits. Here are ways to celebrate Financial Literacy Month.
• Give them a finance related gift (It will make them anticipate Financial Literacy Month)
o It doesn’t have to be expensive! There are a number of finance management guides for kids/teens less than $15, for example It’$ My Money; a finance-guided journal specifically for young adults. You can purchase, here.
o Purchase a bond in their name from TreasuryDirect. In a certain number of years, it will gain interest and they will be able to retrieve their money from the bank. This will teach them about investments.
o Upgrade them from the piggy bank. Start them a savings account or a pre-paid card that they can put their earnings into. This will help them manage their spending early on.
o Sign them up for a kid/teen-oriented financial learning course. Reach out to one of their friend’s parents or younger family member to join. This way it will be a better experience
Looking forward to the sunny skies that come with spring’s arrival but dreading the tedious task of spring cleaning? Trust me. You’re not alone. Check out a few of our money making spring cleaning tips that can brighten your day.
Turn The “No” Pile Into Cash
Sorting through clothes can be tiresome. Donating your non-desirables to a charity of choice is an excellent idea. For those pieces in good condition but are no longer your style, you can sell to make some extra cash. How?
• Search your town for local consignment shops. They will go through your clothes and accept what they like and in return give you money.
• Snap a picture and sell. There are a number of online consignment websites and apps. Trusted platforms that are trusted include Ebay, Poshmark and Tradesy.
Time for A Tag Sale
I know it seems old fashioned. But whether it’s old furniture, a CD collection or odds and ends, there are more than a few ways to make a garage sale successful.
• Advertise your tag sale on sites like Craigslist, Gsalr.com and YardSales.net. These platforms are helpful because it helps those who are looking for something specific easily find it.
• Share it on Facebook. Post your best items for your friends to see. Don’t have a social media account. Ask a trusted friend to post it on theirs. Once someone makes an offer you can meet up to exchange.
Things People Overlook When Spring Cleaning
• Don’t throw out those old books! Try to sell them on BookScouter or Half.Com.
• Old Newspapers piling up? There are people looking for their “birthdate edition” and other historical moments on Ebay. This goes for classic magazine ads also.
• Prefer to sell things face to face? Set up a table at your next local flea market.
• Raid the Recycling Bin! Return bottles and cans for a deposit, and sign up with RecycleBank to earn rewards for all your recycling.
• Turn wine bottles into art! There a number of DIY (do-it-yourself) wine bottle tutorials on Pinterest. Host an art decorating event with your friends.
We love how Kristina Sutton , (@debtfreeblkgrl on Instagram) is sporting our It's My Money™ shirt! With our free giveaway contest, you can too! It's simple share a photo/post on your social media about your financial goal this year and tag/mention It's My Money's social media page for a chance to win! We'll be announcing the winners at the end of the month.
If you enjoyed Part 1 of our breakdown on credit scores, we dig a little deeper with in this post to show you just how much they matter.
Here is an example of buying a car that gives a good picture of what happens when you credit score is low:
Car for purchase:
2016 Nissan Versa - $12,000
36 months/3 year loan
Person A has a credit score of 720 and Person B has a credit score of 580. Both are able to get a loan for the car but check out the difference in interest, monthly payments and total interest each will pay.
Credit Score: 720
Monthly payment: $351.00
Total interest: $639.00
Credit Score: 580
Monthly payment: $416.00
Total interest: $2,960.00
Person A pays $12,639.00 for the car, while Person B pays $14,960.00. This is an example of how a person pays $2,321.00 more for the same item because they have a lower credit score therefore have a higher interest rate.
When your credit score is low, you pay more when getting loans or may not be able to get a loan a all. Creditors see loaning you money or extending you credit is a risk as your three-digit credit score gives them a picture of how you have paid on prior loans or credit cards.
Your current credit score:
If your credit score is 720 and above CONGRATS!! Keep up the great work.
If your credit score is not currently at 720 or above. Don't worry, you can start now on the path to increase your credit score. Managing your finances, pay your bills on time, don't open any more lines of credit, reviewing your reports and your scores begin to increase. It takes some time to have a less than desirable score, so it will take some time to increase it but it is possible. If you haven't read Part 1, you can check it out here.
Need help managing your finances, follow me @itsmymoney_ or email for a one on one consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello savvy savers! We’re talking credit scores again. Why? Because it is a major factor in what you can get out of life. It impacts your approval for loans, leases and so much more.
I hope by now that you all have received and reviewed one or all of your free credit reports. If not, I encourage you to do so. You can find info on my recent blog post, here.
Now, I’d like to share information about "Knowing Your Credit Scores".
What Is Your Credit Score?
Basically, your credit score is a three-digit number that represents how you have paid back money you have borrowed or how you used credit that have been extended to you. It summarizes your full report into three digits using a percentage scale.
You can obtain your credit scores from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. It is important to get your scores from each of these national credit bureau as more often than not the score may vary because the information in each is different.
Below is a breakdown of how each credit score organization works and how it can effect you:
The FICO Credit Score:
• Calculated by Fair Isaac Corporation
• Used by most top lenders
• Ranges from 300 - 850.
• The lowest number represents a low or bad score and the highest number is a high or good score.
• A good credit score is 720
It is important to note, there are other types of credit scores, such as Vantage (2.0 and 3.) and Plus, and they use a number range and/or a letter grade as the measurement.
Below are the factors that affect your score:
1. Payment history - 35%
This has the largest impact to your score; The secret to this one is simple - pay your bills on time. A few options that may help you pay bills on time are. It effects you negatively when making payments late.
2. Amount of debt or amount owed: 30%
This is the next largest impact to your score. Try not to have more credit card debt then you can afford. Work each month to pay the balance(s) in full. A good rule of thumb is to not owe more than 30% of your credit limit. If you have a credit card with a $500 credit limit, try not to carry more than $150 if any balance if any at all.
Negatives: Maxing out your credit cards effects your score negatively. “Max out” means your credit limit is $500 and your balance (amount you owe) is $500, the entire amount of the credit line.
3. Length of Credit History - 15% - How long you have had each line of credit is taken into consideration.
4. New Credit - 10%
Opening up too many accounts around the same time is not a great thing. Try to refrain from opening cards just because you get a % off the purchase the day.
5. Types of Credit or Credit Mix - 10%
It is good to have different types of credit, such as credit cards, mortgage, and car loan. It is not required but if you have a good mix and paying them all time then that is favorable to your credit score. There is typically a small charge to get your credit score from the national credit bureaus.
Here are a few apps where you can get your credit scores for free. When access your credit score from these apps be sure to know which the of score method they use.
1. Credit Karma: https://www.creditkarma.com where you can easily download on your smart phone and check you credit score for free.
2.Creditwise by Capital one: https://www.capitalone.com/credit-cards/benefits/creditwise/
3. Credit Sesame: https://creditsesame.com
Stay tuned for our next blog post, which will demonstrate how credit score can effect you in different scenarios! Be sure to follow us on Instagram, @itsmymoney_ .
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