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9 ways to prevent childcare costs from busting your budget
If you’ve already joined the working parents club, then you completely understand the pain of having childcare costs eating away your budget each month. The hefty price tag of childcare pushes many to delay having children until they feel they can easily afford such responsibility. Before you begin your search for childcare, or if you’re just looking to reduce childcare costs, be sure you know just how much of your budget you can actually afford to allocate to childcare.
Money isn’t the only way to pay for goods and services. Do you have a skill or provide a service that your daycare could use? Simply talk to the director of the daycare to see if you could offer your skills to reduce the costs, or even better, remove the costs altogether. Daycares often hire services for marketing, cleaning, cooking, janitorial, and more. Bartering is still a thing these days, and it relieves the financial burden for both parties involved.
2. Research and compare
First and foremost, research daycares near your home and compare pricing. Think about what’s most important to you, and create a list of questions that can be your guide. Do you want a daycare that’s close to home or one that stays open later than most daycares? While it’s nice to have a low rate, you don’t want to risk your child’s safety or place them in childcare where the teachers are overwhelmed with more children than they can handle.
3. In-home childcare
Businesses exist to generate income, and you can believe that daycares aren’t any different. To take advantage of lower rates, consider an in-home daycare. In-home daycares typically don’t face the same overhead expenses as regular daycare centers that have to hire staff, pay rent, buy food, pay utilities, and buy supplies. If you want to check on the license of an in-home daycare or find valuable childcare resources and tips, visit childcare.gov.
4. Adjust your work schedule
Many employers will work with employees if they need to adjust their work schedules. If your daycare offers part-time or drop-in options, work half the week from home and utilize the daycare the other days. Or, if you want to work nights and weekends, while your partner stays home in the daytime with the children, see if that is available to you. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Many companies aren’t as strict as they were many years ago, appealing to hard-working, young, and thriving parents who are a valuable asset to the company.
5. Work remotely
Telecommuting is a great way to eliminate or reduce childcare costs. Many employers are flexible and understand the need for employees to work remotely occasionally or full-time. Working from home is also beneficial in that it allows you to attend school events, reduce evening stress, save on gas and car repairs, and most off all, allows you to save more money for other day-to-day financial needs. Stay on top of your work responsibilities to ensure your boss doesn’t regret it and suspend your work from home privileges.
6. Government assistance
Yes, childcare is so expensive that the government has stepped in to help parents who struggle to pay the high cost of care each month. While there are certain qualifications that must be met to receive help from the government, it’s a great financial resource worth researching. And don’t assume you exceed the income limits. When you factor in children and the expenses of running a household, many people will be surprised to find out they actually do qualify.
7. Boys & Girls Club or YMCA
Many Boys & Girls Clubs have been around for decades and, just like the YMCA, provide great afterschool hours and very affordable rates. These youth activity centers help students with their homework, engage them with physical and mental activities, provide food, and offer a safe environment for them to work and play.
8. Ask family
Is grandma sitting at home all day watching her favorite court-television shows? Why not ask granny to look after your little one while you work? After all, she’s experienced. Typically, grandmothers love spending time with their grandchildren, or any small children. It may not be the same type of care you’d find at a daycare center, but it’s usually convenient, safe, and affordable. Maybe you have another relative nearby whose schedule isn’t hectic. Family is often supportive of their working family members who have little ones and need to save money. Reach out to your family members and explain the ever-rising costs of daycare and how difficult it is to pay. If they are reluctant, maybe you can pay them something to soften the blow, while helping you to avoid the hefty expense at regular daycares.
9. Try church
Many churches have joined the childcare business, but the best part is their competitive pricing. Most church daycares operate at a 20 percent or greater discount than most private daycare centers. Call around to churches in your neighborhood and inquire about their rates. Once you find one that matches your budget, stop in for a visit. You’ll often find there are fewer children and a very friendly staff. However, more likely than not, there will be some teachings about religion as a part of the church ministry. If you don’t want your child learning about the religion of that church, find one that has similar religious views.
A Quick Guide to Becoming a Freelancer
Freelancing comes with endless freedom, but also endless responsibilities. Businesses have accountants, marketing teams, benefits administrators, and everything in between. However, if you want to be your own boss, then these responsibilities fall on—you guessed it—you! Before taking the plunge into freelancing full-time, consider sticking with your day job with a steady income until you get your footing.
Before you can begin your freelance career, you need to figure out what it is you want to do. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Why do you want to freelance? Can you afford it? How do you plan to present your “brand” to future clients? Who is your target audience? Asking yourself these questions will help set you up for success in your field. Most companies and start-ups want a specialist to complete the job – wouldn’t you? Decide what your biggest selling point is and go from there. If you love graphic design, think of one area that you’re best at. Maybe your niche is designing graphics for t-shirts, but consider who those t-shirts are for. Continue narrowing down your market so you can brand yourself as a specialist in whatever field you’re in. This will allow you to build a dependable reputation and control how clients perceive you.
Showcase your skills by creating a portfolio or a website that features your best work. When a potential client sees your website, they’ll want to see your past experiences, your personality, creativity, and, most importantly, how to contact you. Keep your website domain name and social media handles consistent so it’s easy for potential clients to find you. Your online presence is often the first impression a new client will have of you, so make sure it’s professional, consistent, and on-brand.
Now that you have some of the groundwork out of the way, it’s time to start selling yourself and landing gigs so you can start earning money. If you already have a few clients lined up, great! If not, there are job sites for freelancers to help you get started. Ask friends and family for referrals, and consider reaching out to companies directly to offer your services.
Managing money as a freelancer can be tricky, especially when you’re just starting out, since you won’t know how much income you’ll have and how steady that income will be. Now’s the time to put on your accountant hat and start to develop a monthly budget. Start by tracking your revenues (income) and expenses. Find your monthly income by adding everything you’ve made in a year and then dividing it by 12. This will give you a rough estimate of how much you can spend and save each month. Each time you get paid for a freelance project, write it down, and every time you purchase an item to complete a project (e.g., a Photoshop subscription), write that down, too. Keep track of all of your fixed expenses, like rent, insurance, car payments, etc. Create a spreadsheet or use an app like Mint to track and organize your income and expenses.
If your budget is doing its job, you should be earning more than you’re spending. It’s tempting to use that extra money for travel or fun activities, but it’s more important to start saving some money and funneling at least 30% of every paycheck into a separate account to cover self-employment taxes. Don’t forget about retirement (you do want to retire, right?) – consider contributing to Individual Retirement Account (IRA) each time you get paid for a project. Your future self is already thanking you!
Freelancing is an enticing choice for many reasons, but it’s still a huge career choice that requires a lot of work, especially in the beginning, in order to be successful. If you’re ready to make the leap, congrats! If you’re still on the fence, why not freelance part-time to see if it’s right for you? After all, freelancing is about flexibility and freedom.
A Crash Course in Finance for College Students
Whether you’re just starting college or about to finish up, it’s good to know how your finances work and how to make the most of your banking experience. With all of the options out there, it can be tough to decide which financial institution
to choose and which one will best fit your needs as a student. Here are some tips to help you thrive financially during college.
Many young adults will open an account at the same credit union or bank their parents use. But what happens when you move away from home? Be sure to check if there is a branch, credit union service center, or surcharge-free ATM close to both your hometown and school. There will be plenty of times when you need cash and want to be close to a location that won’t charge extra fees when withdrawing money or making a deposit.
Numerous websites compare brick-and-mortar credit unions and banks to online financial institutions. Research before opening an account with any establishment—there could be hidden fees or minimum balance requirements, and these minimums could be hard to meet as a college student. To get the best deals and best interest rates, consider opening a checking account in one place and a savings account in another. As long as you can keep up with your earnings
and pay your bills on time, separate accounts shouldn’t
be an issue.
Save Money Now
If you’re taking out student loans, don’t wait until you’re earning a real salary to pay them off. Open a savings account with high interest rates and no fees. There will be plenty of expenses throughout your college years, so there may not be a lot of money to save up. However, a little savings here and there will eventually add up and help pay off those pesky loans in the future. Or, better yet, start chipping away at your loans while in school—this can save you money in interest in the long run.
Get a Flexible Job
You may think there isn’t enough time in the day with classes, studying, activities, and sports, but there is always time to get a flexible job. Even if it doesn’t pay much, it’s better than having no income. Some schools offer student work programs or federal work study and have jobs that will work around your class schedule. Some schools will even give you free housing or cut down on housing costs if you become a resident assistant. If you feel comfortable sharing your car, you could become an Uber or Lyft driver and work for yourself whenever you have the time. There are also plenty of odd jobs worth considering. Ask your parents if they know anyone who needs house sitting, dog walking, or babysitting. These don’t take up much time and are relatively easy ways to make money without making a full-time commitment.
Create a Budget
Even if a job is out of reach, talk to your parents, guardians, or whoever is helping pay for school about setting a budget and sticking to it. College is about new experiences, so make sure to factor in a percentage for entertainment and spending money. Make a list of expenses like books, supplies, groceries, bills, etc., along with other things you may need money for, like events, shopping, and eating out. Although, if you do have a job, put a percentage of your paycheck aside into a savings account—you’ll thank yourself later.
Single in the City: Financial tips for flying solo in Atlanta
Being single has some real advantages, like the ability to sleep starfish style, the freedom to come and go as you please, and never having to worry about someone else hogging the remote. But, there’s also a lot less built-in accountability. When you’re working with a single income, your saving and spending habits not only need some guardrails, but they need a reality check once in a while.
Singles in the city have more opportunity for dining out, shopping, and entertainment, which can easily translate into serious spending. We’re not saying that you need to pay your rent, binge-watch Netflix, and eat ramen noodles until you win the lottery, but if you incorporate a few of these helpful tips, you’ll find that your finances and your future will be substantially less stressful and a lot more fun.
Create a budget
A budget is the foundation for financial success. Whether you’re running a business or managing your weekly paycheck, you need to know where to allocate your resources. Monthly bills, retirement savings, your emergency fund, trendy wardrobe, and caramel latte addiction are all vying for financial attention. And those tickets to see Drake at Phillips Arena aren’t far behind.
A budget will allow you to pay your monthly expenses on time, stash away some savings, and know exactly how much discretionary income you have to spend. It will inevitably make you decide if those Lululemon leggings are more important than running through the Starbucks’ drive-thru every morning or if your weekly visit to DSW is the best use of your lunch hour.
Enlist a money mentor
Accountability is a big part of accomplishing almost anything. Everyone needs someone to gently counsel them and help them talk through important decisions, like buying big-ticket items. Find someone you trust who’s a little older and wiser, and can speak from experience. Allow them to keep you accountable and know that even when it’s uncomfortable, you’ll be better for it in the end.
Create your monthly budget, meet for coffee, and then talk through your financial plan for the month. Give them permission to ask the tough questions and allow yourself to answer them honestly. Listen to their feedback and recommendations. They’ll inevitably help you avoid their past mistakes and help you work toward financial success.
Recognize impulse buying
Ever find yourself mindlessly surfing online retailers like Amazon, H&M, or Nordstom Rack? You don’t need another pair of skinny jeans, but there they are, and they’re on sale! Boom—there’s a quick $60 you’ll never see again. If you thought about it for more than a few minutes, you probably would have passed.
Ever add another item to your cart so you can qualify for free shipping? Sure, spend another $35 on a shirt you’ll probably never wear just to avoid the $7.99 shipping cost. It makes you feel like a savvy shopper when really, you just got duped into spending more than you intended. Why can’t you leave Target without spending $100 every time you walk through the door? We feel your pain. Work from a list, shop with intention and avoid surfing the web to pass the time.
Find some free or cheap entertainment
When you live in a busy city, there’s always something to do. Fun doesn’t have to cost you anything, especially in Atlanta. Every Wednesday night, Centennial Olympic Park has Wednesday Wind Down and free music. Visit the National Archives and trace your family tree. Run, walk, or bike through Piedmont Park or visit the Atlanta Farmer’s Market. Make plans for the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival or take in a Singles Event at Buckhead Church.
If you want to pack a lunch and head OTP, you can hike the Indian Seats Trail, visit Toccoa Falls, shoot the Hooch, or relax on Lake Altoona. Avalon in Alpharetta hosts a live band on the lawn every Friday night in the summer, and their Athleta store offers free yoga classes. Grab a friend and go!
Some things you don’t even have to leave home to enjoy. Invite some friends over to watch your favorite TV show or host a game night. The possibilities are endless.
Shop consignment stores
Consignment shops and vintage clothing are all the rage. If you haven’t ventured in, you’re missing some great bargains. Not all the items will match your style, but you can snap up some gently used, designer clothing, purses, and accessories at affordable prices. You’d be surprised at how many people want to offload last season’s styles. It’s always an adventure. You never know what you’ll find, and the thrill of the hunt is part of the fun.
Here’s an extra bonus: If you’re a fashionista and have items that no longer fit or flatter you, consider a consignment shop as a way to purge your closet and make a few extra dollars.
These are just a handful of ideas that can help you stick to your budget without feeling the pinch. Atlanta is never short on entertainment, so do some research, find some things you’ll enjoy, and consider some new experiences. C’mon, it’ll be fun!
High Fashion, Low Budget: 7 Tips for Frugal Fashionistas
Style is a funny thing…one day it’s in, and the next day it’s out. Pulling off chic and trendy can be expensive, especially if you’re keeping up with the Kardashians. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be.
If you want to be a fashionista but still need to pay your rent, read on. We’re giving you tips that will help you fill your wardrobe with affordable styles that are nothing short of fabulous.
1. Visit consignment, thrift, and vintage clothing shops
Consignment shops are popping up faster than Starbucks coffee houses these days and for a good reason: there’s a big market for pre-owned, well- cared for clothing and accessories that are still current. Shop early and often in the more affluent areas and you might just find those to-die-for leopard print mules you drooled over last winter. In terms of quality and condition, consignment shop owners can be quite selective when choosing which items to accept, but you should always inspect items for imperfections.
Thrift store shopping is en vogue right now and a goldmine for the bargain fashionista. But, you have to be a person who enjoys the thrill of the hunt. From t-shirts to designer handbags, from chinos to ball gowns, they have it all. Items arrive in various conditions, so inspect your purchases carefully.
Vintage shops are trending lately, especially because the look is really timeless. Vintage clothing is unique and often one-of-a-kind. Fancy buttons, interesting fabric combinations, and hand-sewn embellishments are their trademark, which is what makes them so fabulous. Sometimes the clothing can take you back to another time or, combined with a modern look, it can add that pop of interest that ultimately makes the outfit.
2. Don’t discount the resale sites
Poshmark, Depop, eBay, ThredUp, Swap…they all offer pre-owned stylish pieces at deeply discounted prices. The secret, though, is to be specific about what you’re looking for. Search NWT (new with tags) or EUC (excellent used condition) and don’t be shy about asking the seller to post more pictures. Look for tried-and-true brands that always fit you well. Before you make a purchase, be sure to review the site’s return policy since you’re basing your purchase on how you imagine it will look. Accessories are a less risky purchase since they always fit!
3. Connect on social media
If you thought Facebook was just for catching up with old classmates and posting pictures of little Johnny’s first birthday party, you’re living a sheltered life. Facebook Marketplace sells everything from futons to fur coats, clothing to crock pots, all at rock-bottom prices. Usually, clothing items are those that sellers think could earn them a few extra bucks, especially the ones with designer labels. Join your local Facebook garage sale groups and you never know what you might find.
Love the Stitch-Fix personal shopper concept, but not crazy about their prices? There’s a Facebook group that resells new and gently worn items from the Stitch-Fix family of labels, and another that finds the same or comparable styles on sale at local stores. Are Anthropology, Free People, and Urban Outfitters some of your faves? Yup, they’re there, too! Go ahead. Use that search button and go wild.
4. Shop discount stores
Discount stores like TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, and Saks off Fifth are ideal for the savvy, designer-minded shopper who doesn’t want to pay full price. Generally, these stores negotiate the lowest price on overstock and end-of-season inventory from other companies and then sell it at 20-60% below retail prices.
Discount stores are less concerned with purging last season’s inventory with end-of-season sales but they’ll usually markdown items twice a year, in January and July. At TJ Maxx, a price tag with a red dot means the item has been discounted only once, and a yellow dot means it’s been marked down to its lowest price. You might have to buy your winter coat in July, but it’ll be a steal!
Head to your favorite discount store and find out which days of the week they receive new inventory or when the next clearance sweep is scheduled. There’s no big secret; all you need to do is ask. Plan ahead and get there early for the biggest selection.
5. Plan a swap party
If you have friends that are the same size and have similar tastes in style, host a clothing swap party. Each season, head to your closet and choose items you haven’t worn, are bored with, or don’t fit your shape quite right. Swapping clothes with your friends can boost your wardrobe and bring new life to unloved and neglected pieces that are perfect…for someone else.
6. Take on the department stores
Department stores are not the worst places to find your style, but don’t buy anything without a coupon. Macy’s will price match Macys.com and you can still couple it with a discount code. They’ll also honor online prices for the same item from a list of competitors like Belk, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, and Lord & Taylor.
Love the superior customer service of Nordstrom? Join their rewards club and earn points for every purchase. When you reach 2,000, they’ll send you a $20 Nordstrom note to use on a future purchase. While their sales may be few and far between, they offer free personal styling and free alterations. Price matching is standard policy as are ten-day price adjustments.
7. Love it or leave it
We all have our favorite stores and brands. The key to scoring the best deals is to know the opportune time to shop–when shipments arrive, at the end of a season, before your coupon expires, or during a promotional event. It’s also important to buy pieces that you love when you see them, not merely when you need them. Ever try to find a dress to wear to a holiday party during your lunch break? You’d pay double for one that simply doesn’t make you look like you’re wearing a trash bag just to get out of there.
Your wardrobe should also be versatile, lend itself to be easily mixed-and- matched, and include enough neutrals to balance the other colors and patterns. Wear a vintage embroidered blazer with a pair boyfriend jeans, or change it up and pair it with a pencil skirt. Match that navy tunic with a pair of white capris and a shabby chic denim jacket. Replace the tunic with a striped t-shirt and grab some tennis shoes for a whole new look. Maximize the possibilities and it’ll seem as if your outfits are endless.
Befriend Your Budget: Stick to your budget without sticking it to your social life
As the single one of my friend group, I know how hard it can be living the #strongindependentwoman lifestyle while all of my friends are living it up as double-income households. Relationship status aside, it can be tough managing your social life when you’re on a budget. Even if you make good money, you may have it earmarked for other financial goals, such as knocking out those pesky student loans or saving for a big vacation and don’t want to blow it on social activities. So, how do you balance your budget without becoming a hermit and alienating your friends? Fear not, we’ve got a few tips to help you out.
Be the first to suggest an activity, not the last.
It’s common to fall back on the norm of dining out at restaurants when it seems like there’s nothing else to do. If you take it upon yourself to suggest alternatives, you can decide on an activity that fits your budget. Living in a city like Atlanta, there’s always something going on that’s either cheap or free, so don’t be afraid to try something new. Once you offer up a few new and fun ideas, you’ll become the go-to planner for your squad, and you won’t feel as much pressure to overspend.
Get comfortable with saying “no.”
You don’t have to decline every invite, but you should get used to saying “no” when an outing is out of your budget, such as a weekend-long music festival or a spur-of-the-moment road trip. You don’t always have to say “no” outright; offer up a more wallet-friendly alternative if you can. If you do have to pass on an outing with friends, be honest about why you can’t make it – true friends will be understanding about your financial situation.
Focus on your long-term goals.
Paying off your student loans, buying a house, or saving for retirement might not be as glamorous or fun as backpacking through Europe with your friends, but that doesn’t make it any less important. How much does the cost of eating out with your friends every week set you back in terms of reaching your larger goals? Sure, 50 bucks here or there may not seem like a big deal at the moment, but your small “splurges” add up over time. We’ve all heard the example that a $5 cup of coffee at work each day will cost you $100 a month – the same concept applies when spending money just to hang out with your friends. Think about where those dollars could be better put to use and focus on that to keep your #FOMO in check.