[Video] – Single Parenting on a Budget Experian #CreditChat

[Video] – Single Parenting on a Budget Experian #CreditChat

Single Parenting on a Budget Advice

Are you struggling to create or manage a budget? If so click the button above to watch the video of the #CreditChat conversation I had with the Experian team.

We discussed everything from creating a stable financial future, establishing budgeting best practices, staying on top of your credit, starting an emergency fund, and choosing the right insurance.

You can download the Budget Sanity Saver worksheet to get a head start with creating your budget automatically. You need Microsoft Word to use it.

Chat Q & A

Here are the questions that were asked during the conversation and my answers:

Q1: What are the first steps a single parent should take when creating a stable financial future for his/her family?
Access where you are, decide where you want to be and create a written plan. Ask for help. check out Financial Planning Days for free financial planning in your area.

Q2: How should a newly single parent establish a budget? What are best practices? Write all current expenses like rent, food, car, etc. Subtract those expense amounts from your income. Best practices: Live below your means. Budget each paycheck before you spend. Pay yourself first.

Q3: What steps should single parents take to ensure they are staying on top of their credit? check your credit report regularly. Your bank may offer free monitoring. Get your annual credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Spend only what you can repay immediately. Pay your bills on time or at least make arrangements to pay.

Q4: What financial documents should newly single parents review when creating a financial plan? Review your bank statements to see the history of your spending.

Q5: Are there any tax credits or deductions that can help reduce the amount of taxes single parents pay? earned income credit. child care credit. Student loan credit.

Q6: What are best practices for establishing an emergency fund? Pay yourself first in each paycheck. Add most or at least half of your tax refund. Sell items you don’t really need and put it in the fund.

Q7: What insurance considerations should single parents take? Term life seems to be a good policy to have since it covers you for a specific period of time while your children are still in your home.

Q8: What should single parents know about creating an estate plan? Talk with a financial planner who has information and/or an attorney. Get your will made so your family and the state knows what to do with your property and your children in case of your death

Q9: What advice do you have for a single parent who is struggling financially? If it feels like you are drowning stop the leaks. Take a deep breath. Remember it is temporary. Create an action plan to slow your spending, increase your income, focus on what you have instead of what you do not have.

Q10: Do you have any final financial tips for single parents? You have the power to become financially free. Learn all you can about money management. Focus on increasing your income rather than cutting everything from your life. Get the kids involved and teach them the value of money but more importantly the value of life and family.

Resources mentioned in the video:

Financial Planning Days – Free financial planning in select cities

Alison – Free financial literacy course online

Practical Money Skills – Financial Literacy website

Prism – Budgeting & Bill Organization App

Garage Sale apps – YardSailr, Let Go, OfferUp, Varage Sale

Create a Will or Plan Your Funeral

National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) – Credit and Debt Advice

16 Ways to Save Money on Groceries for Single Moms and Students

16 Ways to Save Money on Groceries for Single Moms and Students

Great grocery tips for single moms whether you are in school or not!

Whether you’re spending your Freshman year in off-campus housing or you just left a dorm—and meal plan—behind, one big change is on the horizon this school year: you need to make food for yourself with your own kitchen, two hands, and brain. And that means besides making time in your busy schedule to cook, you’ll also have to budget for the shopping as well, which can be tough on a college student income.

While it might seem overwhelming to feed and shop for yourself, you’ve totally got this. Let us help you put your money worries to rest with these grocery shopping tips. (Unfortunately, you’ll have to go somewhere else for help with calculus.)

1. Check Student-Friendly Stores

The easiest way to save money while shopping is to frequent local markets that offer student discounts. Usually, stores close to campus know they’ll get more customers if they offer a 5%–10% discount for those with university ID cards. Buying your weekly groceries from these shops at a discounted price is perfect for sticking to your budget.

2. Buy Generic or Store Brand Products

Most supermarket chains offer generic packaged products. These store brand products are usually cheaper than brand name products, even though they’re virtually the same. To save some cash, switch to store brand whenever possible.

3. Shop (Mostly) Vegetarian

Besides being bad for the environment, meat is pretty expensive. So whether you plan for Meatless Mondays or go completely vegetarian, you’ll definitely save money. And if you do buy a little meat, avoid steak and expensive seafood entirely, as those purchases will take up a lot of your budget.

4. Buy Frozen Vegetables

Perusing the produce section might be fun, but buying frozen vegetables is often the best way to go. Bags of frozen veggies are cheap, and as a busy student, you’ll save time by not having to chop and prep anything. Frozen vegetables still have lots of nutrients, so you can easily eat healthy with minimal effort.

5. Plan Your Meals (and Stick to That Plan)

One of the most important things you should do before grocery shopping is plan out your meals for the week. A meal plan will help you stay on track and (hopefully) under budget when shopping because you’ll know exactly what you need. You can save a lot of money—and start to drop that Freshman 15—by skipping over those impulse buys like Cheez-Its and Oreos.

6. Use Coupons—Seriously

While it might seem silly to pick up a newspaper or coupon booklet, you should make the effort to clip coupons before shopping. You can plan your meals around items that are on sale, and you might even end up trying a new food or recipe. The cents and dollars you save will really add up. Plus, even if you’re against wasting paper or money on newspapers, you can still find plenty of coupons online.

7. Save Money on Bags

Some states have implemented bag taxes to reduce waste, meaning plastic bags at the grocery store cost money. Bring your own bag (any free bag from a college club will do) to both save the environment and save money. Those few cents would make a dent in your wallet after a few weeks.

8. Eat Before You Shop

Studies indicate that being hungry while looking at food only leads to greater perceived hunger—which could lead to more impulsive thoughts about food. Make sure to grab a snack at home or have a friend grab you something from the dining hall before you head to the store. That way, you can avoid spending more on things that excite your hungry stomach.

9. Use Technology to Your Advantage

These days, there’s an app for everything. Grocery shopping is no different. As a tech-savvy college student, you can easily download several apps that help you keep track of your pantry’s inventory, budget effectively, or eat healthier. There are quite a few different apps out there, so give several a try to find out which ones make your shopping experience easier.

10. Don’t Waste Anything

Along similar lines, you should use Supercook.com to turn whatever’s left in your fridge and pantry into a meal. All you have to do is plug in what you have, and then your edible odds and ends can be used instead of thrown away. It’s easier than you’d expect to make food—even older food—taste good.

11. Check Out the Dollar Store

Surprisingly enough, you can actually find plenty of affordable groceries at the dollar store. If there’s one near campus, make sure to frequent it to get great deals on basic necessities like bread, milk, and peanut butter. If there isn’t a dollar store nearby, make a trip every once in a while to stock up on shelf-stable food items like pasta or canned goods.

12. Shop Alone

Going shopping with friends can be fun, but shopping on a budget is not a social activity. If you’re serious about saving some cash, hang out with your friends another time. Shopping with others will increase the number of unplanned purchases you make, whether that’s desserts, extra snacks, or weird produce they want you to try on a dare.

13. Buy What’s in Season

Produce that’s out of season can be unreasonably expensive, so you might not want to buy strawberries year-round. Instead, check out the USDA’s website to see when your favorite produce buys are in season.

14. Freeze Anything and Everything

Yogurt, bread, vegetables, tomato sauce, you name it—almost everything lasts longer when you throw it in the freezer. Freezing leftovers from meals works great, too. Put some individual servings in the freezer to eat when you have to cram instead of cook.

15. Be Alert at the Cash Register

Make sure all the sale items you purchase are sold to you at the correct price. Be attentive when you’re checking out, and don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. After all, everyone knows college students work with slim budgets. If a can of beans or a bag of frozen chicken rings up incorrectly, simply ask the cashier to double check the price.

16. Avoid Perishable Bulk Item Deals

While some deals might seem really tempting, it’s not worth it for a college student with limited space and money to buy four gallons of milk, 10 pineapples, or seven cucumbers just to get a cheaper price per unit. The food will definitely go bad before you use it up, and then you didn’t really save money at all. If you want to buy in bulk, opt for nonperishable items like oats or rice.

If you’ve used all these steps and are still worried about your food budget each month, a credit card—used responsibly—could be the answer. Many cards offer rewards for groceries, which could help you earn a bit of cash back on purchases you’d make anyway. Read our guide on Credit Cards for Students, and don’t forget to check your credit report for free at Credit.com before applying.

The post Grocery Shopping in College: 16 Ways to Save Money appeared first on Credit.com.

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9 Online Jobs the Pay Well

9 Online Jobs the Pay Well

The nine-to-five office grind isn’t for everyone. Some people are more productive when they’re at home. Luckily, the internet has a way of providing new opportunities for almost everyone, especially SAHMs.

If you are looking for ways to earn extra income without sacrificing your time with the kids, here are online jobs you can get into:

Freelance Writer

If you have a way with words, freelance writing is a viable option that you should consider. A lot of industries are in need of writers especially when the products, services, or topics involved are niche.  There is a wide variety of subjects to be covered such as travel, sports, fitness, housekeeping, and more. The write-ups needed usually come in the form of blog posts, journalistic articles, and online lists. Starting out, you can expect around $15 per post, but with more experience and better connections, you can make a lot more.

Blogger

Blogs that generate a lot of traffic can be turned into a profitable side business. If your blog shares the same interest and direction with a company, they may be willing to pay you to run ads that link to their site. For example, if you have a home cooking blog, companies selling kitchenware may ask you to connect with them (or the other way around). Pay is usually based on how much people click on the ads via your blog and it ranges from $10 to $50 for every 1,000 hits.

Virtual Assistant

A lot of people are in need of other’s help to stay organized. You can monetize on that by becoming a virtual assistant. From reading and responding to emails, scheduling meetings, managing websites, and more, it is a position that requires you to do just a little bit of everything. Rates usually start out at $10 per hour and can get to up to $30 if you are more experienced.

Graphic Designer

As technology develops so does the need for companies to go digital. Businesses and professionals are always looking to establish a web presence, and if they already have one, they are may be looking to update it. If you are adept at creating custom graphics, then designing online can be a lucrative source of income with a rate that averages about $45 per hour.

ESL Teacher

Your proficiency in English can be used as a means of income. Teaching and tutoring English as a second language is sought after in countries with locals trying to learn it such as South Korea or the UAE. Rates are about $25 per hour and can go north of that. It also might open doors for you to travel across the world.

Online Seller

A lot of people have things lying around their home that they want to get rid of, but they are too busy to do so. You can actually reach out to them and do it yourself. With various sites at your disposal, you can sell anything from appliances to mint condition toys, or you can create your own site for selling used clothes. As a seller, you can take a percentage off the total sales or have a “per-item” fee that varies depending on the value of the item being sold.

App Developer

With smart phones developing more and more, apps play a bigger part in our daily lives. Developing one is another way of making money. There are some hobbies and niche areas where apps have no presence in yet, and acting on it can yield a profitable reward.  

Google Paid Ad Specialist

The world of paid internet marketing is as lucrative as it is huge. If you are familiar with your way around Google’s Ads, you can make extra money managing a company’s campaign. The better you are at optimizing ads, the more you will start bringing in more clients.

Social Media Manager

There are companies that look for individuals adept at maintaining a social media presence. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, these platforms help with a company’s or professional’s internet exposure. Some are too busy to build their brands online, and they are in need of people who can do so.

I hope you enjoyed and got a few ideas from 9 Online Jobs that Pay Well!

6 Ways to Save More Money Every Month

6 Ways to Save More Money Every Month

If saving money was easy, everyone would be doing it. Unfortunately, the excuses for not are easy to stack — what with mortgage or rent, utilities, kids, student loans, pets, food and just the slightest social life, it can seem like there isn’t a penny to spare.

The trick to saving more is to make it simple, make it automatic and make it something you never have to think about. Still not convinced you can hack it? Check out some of these easy ways to save more every month and you might be surprised how much your bank account grows.

1. Sign Up For an Account That Automatically Saves For You

Many banks make it easy for customers to save these days by doing it for them automatically. For example, enroll in Bank of America’s Keep the Change program and for every purchase you make using a Bank of America debit card, the bank will automatically round your purchase to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference from your checking account to your savings. How easy is that? Check with your own bank to see if they offer a similar program.

2. Automate Your Savings Yourself

If you’re more of a “do-it-yourself” kind of person, automate your savings yourself by signing up for a monthly transfer directly from your checking into your savings account. You’ll know the transfer is coming every month, which will make you feel good, but you won’t have to go in and physically make the transfer yourself, which will feel even better. If you can, try setting up multiple savings accounts for your different goals (i.e. house, travel, emergency, etc.). By purposefully diverting your hard-earned money into specific buckets, you’ll feel more like you’re working toward an actual goal, rather than just generally saving for a rainy day.

3. Use a Financial App to Track Your Progress

If you find that it’s hard for you to save because you aren’t seeing your progress at any given time unless you log into multiple accounts, there’s an app for that. Download a budgeting app and you can connect all of your banking in one area for ease of use. Don’t feel comfortable with an app? Your bank may offer something similar on their website. Now every time you make a purchase, put money into savings or take cash out of the ATM, you’ll be able to see exactly how your money moves have affected your current savings, goals and budget.

4. Make the Most of Your Credit Cards

If your current credit card isn’t garnering you some type of rewards, it may be time to make a switch. These days, credit cards offer such great incentives through rewards programs, so unless you’re prone to carry a balance on your card from month to month (rewards cards can come with higher annual percentage rates, which can cut into any rewards you earn), you could be missing out on some serious savings. If it’s pure cash that you’re interested in, check out Credit.com’s guide to finding the right cash-back rewards credit card.

5. Learn to Haggle

Remember, cars aren’t the only things you can haggle over. Check with your internet and cable provider and call your cell phone company to see if the price you currently pay is the best they can do. Ask for discounts on items in the grocery or retail stores, too. Take the difference between what you would have been paying and the final price you end up with and stock it away in savings.

6. Avoid Paying ATM Fees

You might think ATM fees aren’t worth worrying about, but those quick trips to the ATM can really add up. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to avoid paying ATM fees.

Remember, you’ll save money on everything from your mortgage and auto loan to credit card interest if your credit scores are good. If you don’t know where yours stand, you can find out by taking a look at your free credit report summary.

Looking for more ideas on how to save each month? Check out these 12 ways to lower your cellphone bill. 

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post 6 Ways to Save More Money Every Month appeared first on Credit.com.

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How to Make Summer Camp Fit Your Family’s Budget

How to Make Summer Camp Fit Your Family’s Budget

Last summer, the New York Times ran a piece about families who can’t afford summer camp or other programs for their kids. It highlights a problem for many working parents: Summertime care for kids is expensive.

This is especially true if your kids are in public school during the year. You suddenly go from paying nothing to have your kids cared for all day to paying a whole lot of money. Many parents may not have much choice but to find summertime childcare.

If this is the boat you’re in, here are a few ways to find a summer camp for your kid and options that may make it more affordable.

1. Check Online for Summer Camp Options

These days most states and major metropolitan areas have parent blogs or magazines devoted to the local area. In my local Indianapolis, for instance, we have Indy’s Child magazine and IndywithKids.com. Both feature a listing of local summer camp options.

Chances are you can find something similar for your area. If you can’t, there are national resources, too. The American Camp Association has a database for finding day and overnight camps in your area. It leans towards ACA accredited camps, though it will list some not accredited. When I ran it for our area, it turned up some but not all the options I know are available. Still, it could be a place to begin your search for a summer camp.

2. Choose a Less Expensive ‘Base Camp’ Option

One thing that makes summer camp expensive is the specialized options. I’ve seen sports camp, Lego camp, technology camp, horse camp and more. If your kid goes to these specialty camps for the summer, you’ll undoubtedly spend more money.

However, many local YMCAs, schools, daycares, churches and city parks programs offer more traditional summer camps. Our daughter’s daycare, for instance, offers a school-aged summer camp program where they hang out at the daycare for much of the day, but also take trips to local parks, libraries, and pools. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s safe, fun, affordable childcare.

If you can find an option like this, build your summer around it. Then you can splurge on a week or two of more expensive specialty camps for your kid.

Where do you find these less expensive options? Check out the following:

  • YMCA: The Y runs summer camps all over the U.S., and sometimes offers a sliding scale fee to make things more affordable. While they offer more expensive specialty camps, most local Y’s also offer traditional day camp options.
  • Churches and religious centers: Many churches and religious community centers offer summer-long day camp options that are quite affordable.
  • Schools: Local schools with before- and after-care programs may transition those into affordable summer camps with fun activities for kids.
  • Parks and recreation: City and county parks and rec departments also run summer camps, and these tend to be more affordable than other options.
  • Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts: If your child is a scout, look into their summer camp options. These are often overnight options, but they tend to be very affordable.
  • Local businesses: Sometimes local businesses offer summer camp-like programs that are for mentoring older kids who may want to become entrepreneurs. These camps may be based on an application process, so be on the lookout well ahead of time.
  • Local colleges: Often local colleges and universities provide camps as a way to get their own students teaching, leadership and coaching experience.

3. Consider a Nanny Camp

Can’t find any affordable summer camp options in your area? Consider putting together a “nanny camp” with friends or neighbors. This is basically a summer-long nanny sharing program.

You’ll hire a nanny to take care of a reasonable number of kids — say four or five — and the nanny can do some summer-camp activities, like going to local parks and pools. This works best if the kids in the nanny camp are around the same age, and if you can provide the nanny with a safe way to get the kids around town.

4. Ask for Assistance

If you can’t afford even the least expensive camp option on your list, ask for financial assistance. Many summer camps offer scholarships for enrollment fees. Sometimes the information about these options isn’t easy to find, so ask about it. Even if you feel like you make too much money to qualify, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

You should also check for discounts. Some camps offer early registration discounts, and others will give you a reduced rate if you pay for the whole season at once. Tons of summer camps also have sibling discount options, which is why it often makes sense to enroll your kids in the same summer camp.

Making summer camp fit into your family’s budget can be tough, especially if you’re not already used to paying for full-time childcare. But there are plenty of excellent, affordable options out there if you just know where and how to look.

Cards for Camp?

You may be tempted to apply for a credit card to earn rewards for your summer expenses. If you do, be sure to check the terms and conditions so you know what you’re getting into. Also, make sure to check your credit to make sure you’ll qualify. You can view two of your scores on Credit.com.

The post How to Make Summer Camp Fit Your Family’s Budget appeared first on Credit.com.

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11 Ways to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill

11 Ways to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill

Cell phone bills can be expensive, on par with the monthly costs of powering your home or keeping your car gassed up. Of course, your cell phone can help you build your credit, but only if you aren’t strapping yourself with too large a bill every month.

So if you’re sick of shelling out a small ransom to call, text and watch YouTube cat videos on your smartphone, you should know there are ways to cut your bill. Here are 11 options:

1. Choose the Right Plan

If you’re signing up for a new cell phone plan, make sure you’re only paying for the plan you need. Unlimited texting, calling and data plans are nice, but you may use your phone less than you think.

Take a look at your phone usage over the past few months to determine if average usage is way under the allowances you’re paying for. If so, you can save some money by switching to a downgraded plan.

2. Keep Your Phone Longer

Many wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T dangle the carrot of a new phone upgrade every year or so. Of course, you like new devices, but you might end up shelling out hundreds for a new phone or rolling the cost into your wireless bill, which sounds tempting in the store but will add to your monthly cost.

If your current phone works, hold onto it to save money.

3. Skip the Insurance

Device insurance sounds appealing when you’re about to drop hundreds on a new phone. But in many cases, it isn’t worth the cost.

“At $11 per month from Verizon, you’d still need to cough up an additional $50 to $200 for the deductible, depending on your device. It’s more cost-effective to invest in a sturdy, protective case and screen cover and treat your device with care,” said Kendal Perez, Savings Expert at CouponSherpa.com.

It’s also worth checking with your credit card issuer to see what, if any, kind of extended warranty options they offer on new purchases made with your card, or if you pay your cellular bill with your credit card. Learn more about your options with this handy guide to getting your money back when you break or lose your phone.

4. Use Family Plans

If you need more than one phone line on your plan, you may want to check if your wireless carrier offers family plans. Family plans offer savings for additional phone lines, decreasing the average cost of each line. In some instances you may be able to split the costs with a friend or family member you trust.

5. Don’t Surpass Your Data Limit

Seriously, don’t do it. Wireless carriers often impose steep fees when you surpass your data limit, so if you’re regularly bumping up against your limit, you may want to comparison shop for an unlimited plan. It could end up being cheaper than going over your limit several times.

6. Reduce Data Usage

If that’s not an option, consider reducing your data usage. Use secure Wi-Fi wherever available, especially when you’re engaging in data-heavy activity like downloading podcasts or watching videos. If you can reduce your data, you can potentially switch to a plan that charges less.

“Unlimited data plans are making a comeback…however, it’s better to track your usage and pay for the data you actually use. Compare plans between carriers and read the fine print,” said Perez.

7. Do a Bill Audit

Many providers charge for things you’ll never use or already have, such as emergency roadside assistance or 411. Next time you get your bill, go through every fee and charge to make sure you know what you’re paying for. Some unused services could be removed from your bill.

8. Look for Employee Discounts

Many employers and jobs have discounts available with major wireless carriers. Examples may include active-duty military members or state government employees. Find out if your employer or wireless carrier participate in such plans.

“If your employer has a business plan with a carrier, employees are typically eligible for a discount,” says Perez. “Ask your supervisor or HR department about this benefit and the amount of the discount.”

9. Make It Tax Deductible

If you have a home business and use your phone to conduct business calls and emails, you can deduct some or all of the cost of your wireless plan at tax time. This will indirectly reduce the cost of your cell phone bill.

10. Cost Share with An Employer

You also may conduct business on your personal phone for your employer. This could include phone calls, email and any other work activity. Ask your employer if they participate in phone reimbursement or cost-sharing policies.

11. Negotiate With Your Provider

Like many other service providers, wireless carriers face stiff competition from other wireless giants and smaller providers. As a result, they may be willing to negotiate to keep your business. Call your wireless carrier, tell them your bill is too high and that you’re thinking of switching to another provider. You may want to be ready with offers from other wireless carriers, and you’ll have some negotiation power if you’re a long-time customer and always pay your bill on time.

Also, keep in mind, the better your payment history, the better chance you have of negotiating, so don’t wait until you’re making late payments to begin talking. If you’ve already made some late payments, for your phone or other bills, you can see how they’re affecting your credit scores by reviewing your free credit report summary on Credit.com.

Switch Wireless Carriers

Competing wireless carriers are constantly trying to lure customers away from each other. If you can find a better offer from another carrier that provides the service you need, you have a compelling reason to switch. You can even look for budget alternatives, such as prepaid plans.

“Prepaid, no-contract plans from Boost, Virgin Mobile, Ting and Page Plus are all cheap alternatives to big-carrier plans… compare costs between big carriers and no-contract providers before you buy.”

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