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Saving money with cellphones: how to get the best deal
Cellphones: we love them, we hate them, we can’t live without them. Choosing a new phone or carrier is about as fun as a trip to the dentist after you spend time haggling over price points and service levels. But soon that will all be a distant memory, because we have some great ideas on ways you can get the best deal for your cellphone—frustration and screaming are now totally optional.
Purchase an older cellphone model
We’d all love to have the latest iPhone, but have you ever compared the iPhone 11 to the iPhone 13? The truth is, they aren’t all that different. You can certainly expect some small changes from model to model, and even more so when those models are years apart. But since so many companies are churning out new models every year, you can go with an older option that doesn’t sacrifice function. That means you can safely choose the Galaxy 20 without worrying that it will be obsolete in minutes—and that means you can save a little money right up front.
Consider the auto-payment plan
Did you know that a lot of mobile carriers offer auto-payments that are often less money per month? This is a great way to get savings that stay around for a while. Ask your carrier what switching to automatic payments would do for your monthly bill. Of course, it’s important to remember when the payment will hit your bank account so you can budget accordingly. But with just a small amount of extra planning, you can reap the benefits of lower costs without giving up great service.
Don’t just look at big names
While there is nothing wrong with the bigger cellphone competitors of the world, you might consider looking at a smaller company that can meet your needs, like Cricket Wireless or Republic Wireless. These companies are usually able to offer you a better deal, both on your phone and your service costs. It’s important to note that lower costs mean you may not always have the service you want—not all companies have equal coverage. But if you just need the basics for your daily life, these lesser-known providers can be a game-changer.
Split it up
Many cellphone companies offer discounts for multiple lines. If you are single or your kids aren’t old enough for a phone, this may seem like a silly idea. But splitting a plan with even just one or two more people could make a big difference in your monthly bill. Talk to your extended family or some close friends about the types of phones and service you all need—if you can make it work, it’s worth the time and effort of adding multiple lines to one plan and splitting the cost between you.
Switch it up, too
We know; change is the worst. But a lot of cellphone companies offer discounts for switching to their service, which means you can cash-in just by changing your carrier. While hopping back and forth between different providers may seem like a confusing way to live, it may also make a huge difference to your bottom line each month. Be smart about it—you want to ensure that your potential new carrier can still meet all of your needs, like service areas and data streaming. But if you find a good deal that works for you, we recommend making the switch.
Say goodbye to your old cellphone
You can bring that final bill cost down even further by turning in your old phone to the same people who sell you your new one. This is a win-win—cell phone companies can resell your old phone, and you get a better deal on a new phone. Don’t worry about your contacts, photos, and even your messages and apps, because your cell phone provider should be able to port those right over to your new phone. You don’t lose anything but a little bit of time for the transfer, and, of course, your outdated phone.
Much like buying a car, purchasing a new phone or service is all about the negotiation. Often team members of cellphone providers have a little wiggle room on what deals they can offer you, so be sure to ask for the lowest rate they have. This might mean you name an outrageously low rate that they can’t meet but that they can work towards with you. Do be wary of scams—if the deal sounds way too good to be true, it probably is, so read all of the fine print and take your time before signing your contract.
Look for special discounts
While we’re on the negotiation train, this is a great time to mention discounts that may apply to your unique situation. People who serve or who have served in the military, for instance, may be entitled to discounts that others can’t ask for. Your job might also get you some discount points, because first responders, teachers, and others can often find discounts with various providers. If you’re not sure, ask—the worst that happens is you are told no to a discount, but the best that happens is you do qualify and now get to enjoy a lighter cellphone bill each month.
The possibilities for cellphones and service providers may seem endless, but you can find a method that works for the madness. Figure out what you need from your cellphone, look for the best deals and special discounts, and remember that a smartphone that’s only two years old is still pretty smart.
With all that money you saved, it’s important to have a place to store that cash. A savings account with Georgia’s Own is a smart, secure way to store your hard-earned money. From basic savings accounts to CDs and money market accounts, there’s no shortage of ways to make your money grow. Click here to open a savings account today!
Five checking account mistakes you don’t want to make
For most people, their checking account is the heart of their personal finances. It’s where they deposit their paycheck, how they pay their monthly bills, and where they go to withdraw cash for the weekend. And, since their monthly statement details every financial move, it’s an efficient and easy way to keep track of spending and saving.
Although most checking account activity is processed electronically, it’s critical not to employ the out of sight, out of mind mentality. Check out these common checking account mistakes and how to avoid them:
1. You’re loyal to a fault
According to a survey conducted by Bankrate and MONEY, the average adult has had the same primary checking account for about 16 years. Why so long? People stay for convenience and quality customer service, which are important. But what about making sure they’re getting a good deal?
If you’ve been loyal to the same bank since you were a tween or a teen, it’s time to do a little comparison shopping. Checking accounts come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re all not created equal.
They have different features, expenses, and rates of return. In today’s competitive market, many financial institutions are wooing consumers with lower fees, more conveniences, and quality services, all of which are important to consider. Sticking with the same bank out of loyalty sounds honorable, but it doesn’t do much for your account balance.
2. You disregard the minimum balance rule
Many banks or credit unions offer no-fee checking accounts—as long as you maintain a minimum balance. Others require you to use your debit card a specific number of times per month or receive direct deposits into your account. Heck, sometimes you might even earn a tiny bit of interest. But, if you don’t comply with the requirements, BOOM! Your no-fee just jumped to high-fee and you’re out more than a few hard-earned bucks.
These checking accounts can be a smart choice for some consumers, but it’s critical that you keep track of your activity and always meet the requirements. We’re all not detail people, so if that’s too much for you to manage, move to another option. There’s nothing worse than watching your money fly out the window every single month, especially when you can avoid it.
3. You maintain a higher than necessary balance
First it’s not enough money, now it’s too much? Yep, the art of managing your money is all about striking the optimum balance.
Not all checking accounts are interest-bearing, but if they are, they traditionally offer the lowest rates. As such, you should keep enough money in your account to pay your monthly bills and cover your spending, plus a little more that can serve as a buffer. Put the rest in a higher-yielding savings account so you maximize your interest earnings.
Be sure to monitor your balance, and if you’re running low, initiate a transfer. Because most banking is done online, it’s quick and easy to move funds from your savings account to your checking account when needed.
4. You use any nearby ATM
Regardless of which banking institution you use, there are ways to avoid the notorious ATM fees. Some have large networks so an ATM is always nearby. Use your bank’s app to locate other branches or free ATMs so you don’t incur the most dreaded of all account fees. If you’re using an online bank, they’ll likely have a smaller network of ATMs, but many will offer a monthly ATM fee refund.
Using an out of network ATM should be your last resort. You’ll be charged twice—once from each bank. And, with ATM fees at a record high, it could easily cost you between $5 and $10. That’s especially painful when you’re only withdrawing a few bucks at a time.
When you’re in a pinch, you might want to be a little more creative and avoid the ATMs altogether. You can pay for your purchase with your debit card and choose the cash back option, withdraw cash less frequently, but in higher amounts, or even arrange for a friend to pay and use a money-sending app like Venmo to repay them.
5. You don’t fully understand the checking account overdraft protection plan
In 2017, Americans paid more than $34 million in overdraft fees. Today’s average overdraft fee is more than $33 per transaction, and it’s on the rise.
While an overdraft protection plan can be a benefit, it can also be a detriment. Without it, any charge or check that would cause your account balance to fall below $0 would be declined or returned. If you’re enrolled in the plan, you’re home free, right? If you’ve mistakenly swiped your debit card for more than what’s in your account, you’ll be covered and you can breathe a sigh of relief. Until, of course, you see the overdraft fee—or maybe it’s fees.
Once the first transaction crosses the $0 threshold, every transaction that follows also incurs an overdraft fee. It’s especially unfortunate when a large charge hits your account before three smaller transactions, for example. In that case, you would incur four overdraft penalties at roughly $33 each. If the three smaller transactions hit first, you would only incur one fee.
Overdraft protection will help you avoid returned check fees and maybe a little embarrassment when your card is declined, but you can rack up some hefty fees pretty quickly. If you opt for this feature, be sure to read the fine print. Some banks will offer you a grace period that allows you time to make a deposit and avoid the fees, but others may not. Be sure you thoroughly understand the overdraft plan feature before you decide whether or not to opt-in. Otherwise, it could be a costly mistake.
Biggest money mistakes people make
Everyone makes mistakes—even financially. You’re not alone if you have money regrets. But, it’s necessary to understand how money mistakes can affect the rest of your life. The habits you form now will shape your financial future, and getting ahead of any past mistakes will help tremendously. Are you curious if your financial habits are harmful? Below are the biggest money mistakes people make:
Avoiding a budget
You probably hear this constantly, but having a budget is crucial—even if you think you don’t need one. Watching your money disappear isn’t fun. However, you need to know where your money is going, and long gone are the days of tracking your spending on a spreadsheet. There are tons of free budgeting apps, like Mint and Honeydue (perfect for couples!), that allow you to see where you may be overspending.
Getting behind on payments
Falling behind on your mortgage, car payment, or credit card bill creates a tough cycle to break. You pay more in interest and late fees and also severely damage your credit score. You need to determine a strategy to pay off debt—and analyze your spending to figure out why you’re falling behind.
If your goal is to pay off debt and avoid accumulating interest, the avalanche method is your best bet. Start by paying off your debts with the highest interest rate first, then work your way down. Your overall debt load is reduced faster, and you pay less interest.
Using credit cards for everyday expenses
Credit cards aren’t evil if you use them correctly. However, many people use their credit cards for daily purchases—which come at a high price. If you can’t pay your statement balance in full, you should reserve your credit card for emergencies or other appropriate situations, like recurring payments. With double-digit interest rates, you’ll wind up paying more for items that are probably consumed before you receive your credit card statement.
Spending more than you earn
Spending more than you earn goes hand-in-hand with using your credit card for everyday expenses. Charging your credit card here and there may not seem like much, but when you’re not seeing the money disappear from your account in real time, it’s easy to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars.
If you’re trying to control your spending, use your debit card instead. It’s much easier to track your spending when using a debit card, as you more than likely know how much is in your account and how much you can afford to spend. Using a debit card also reduces the habit of impulse buying.
Missing out on employer matching contributions
If your employer offers a 401(k)-matching program, contribute at least up to that percentage to take full advantage of the benefit. If your employer matches 401(k) contributions up to 6%, you should at least contribute 6% of your pre-tax income. By not contributing, you’re leaving money on the table.
You can also contribute more than what your employee matches. Most people think that contributing 100% of their employee match will max their 401(k) contribution, but that’s not the case. You can contribute up to $20,500 in 2022, and anyone over 50 has an additional allowance of $6,500.
Not having an emergency fund
If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that an emergency fund is critical—and something most people don’t have. 56% of Americans can’t cover an unexpected $1,000 bill with savings. Instead of drawing money from an emergency fund, many would have to go into debt. In a perfect world, emergencies wouldn’t exist—but we know they can happen whenever. Having at least $1,000 in a rainy day fund will go a long way in an unexpected situation.
Not knowing where to start may seem overwhelming, but you can make it happen. Use an app to start saving or have a monthly goal. You should also review your budget to see where you can eliminate unnecessary funds and put that into your savings. Don’t have a savings account? Now’s your chance to open one. Georgia’s Own offers various savings accounts that work for your needs and keep your hard-earned money safe.
Not monitoring credit score and reports
Monitoring your credit score and credit report is something you should do regularly. Checking your credit score and report will help you understand your credit history, inform you of any changes to your score, and keep your credit in good shape. Checking your credit report will also alert you to fraud or identity theft.
Various services allow you to check your credit score and report for free. You’re entitled to a free credit report annually through the Annual Credit Report service, which provides reports from the three major credit bureaus. Georgia residents can get two additional reports for free each year. You can also check your credit score regularly through Credit Karma. Aside from the free options just mentioned, you should avoid running your credit too often. Hard credit pulls, like applying for a credit card, can lower your credit rating.
If you’ve made (or are currently making) these money mistakes, don’t beat yourself up—we’ve all made these missteps at one point. But, knowledge is power, and now that you know what mistakes can be harming your financial future, it’s possible to get ahead. We hope you’ll learn from these mistakes and be equipped during your financial journey.
Five steps to achieve financial independence
Financial independence is a beautiful thing. But while many of us desire financial independence, fewer of us know which steps to take to actually achieve it. That’s why we’re here—we want to give you the industry tips and tricks you may not know to help you work toward your dream. Read on to learn about five steps you can follow to gain the financial independence you’ve always wanted.
1. Take stock of your current situation
Every good plan has a starting point—and this one is no exception. Take some time to review your current financial portfolio. How much debt do you have? Which bills are you paying on a monthly basis?
Knowing where you are is a key step in getting where you’re going, so give a thorough and honest look at your finances. You can even speak with a financial advisor to get some professional insight into your monetary needs. And while you’re talking to them, ask them to help you set a goal: what does financial freedom look like for you?
2. Start those savings
After you have reviewed the state of your finances, you can begin to plan. To be financially independent, you’re going to need a way to save money. Start by looking at those expenses you don’t really need—there may be expenses you didn’t even realize you had.
Rework your budget to spend less and save more as much as possible and commit to keeping those savings set aside in your question for financial independence. Remember, you may not be able to save what you want to in the beginning. But as you work to decrease your debt and increase your savings, the path to financial independence will become much easier to travel. You’ll also need somewhere to store those savings. Find a savings account that works best for you, so you can keep your hard-earned money safe.
3. Talk to the pros
We already mentioned reviewing your finances with a professional, but it’s a good idea to ask them to help you with the rest of your plan, too. An accountant or tax professional can give you invaluable insight on ways you can be saving even more money, whether it’s through the right type of bank account or through diversifying your portfolio. Having someone guide you through the process also means less stress for you. Ask some friends and family who they trust to take care of their own finances and get to work.
4. Work out your debt
Life happens. Sometimes we deal with unexpected medical issues or find ourselves paying for braces this year instead of next year. But you have the opportunity to rid yourself of that debt as part of your journey to financial freedom. Start with the smallest debts first—as you pay those off, you’ll find more and more room in the budget for some of your larger debts. It’s also a good idea to reach out to your debtors. You might be able to work out a payment plan that works better with your budget, creating the ultimate win-win situation.
5. Prepare to handle your money
When you achieve financial freedom, it may seem like the hard work is over. But just like you don’t stop going to the gym when you get the muscles you want, you don’t stop managing your finances when you achieve the wealth you want.
In order to maintain that wealth, you will need to be diligent about spending your money the right way. This is another chance to talk to a financial expert who can give you some direction on how to keep your wealth from slipping away. You made it this far—don’t stop before you reach home plate!
Gaining financial independence may seem impossible—but it can be done! Figure out your ultimate goal and then take a planned approach to achieve it. This type of independence may not happen overnight, but it can still happen for you. Find some expert help and start working on your plan to financial freedom today.
10 tips for managing small business finances
Let’s face it—managing a small business takes work. Between managing employees, overseeing marketing and advertising, and ensuring you have free time outside your job, handling finances on top of everything can be tough. But, managing finances allows your company to thrive—and makes your business less likely to fail. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and are unsure where to start, below are 10 tips for managing small business finances:
1. Be sure to pay yourself
If you own a small business, it can be tempting to put all your money into daily operations. After all, the extra capital can go a long way in helping your business’s finances grow. But, you want your business and personal finances to be in good shape, so it’s crucial to pay yourself. There are two main ways to pay yourself as a business owner: salary and owner’s draw.
With salary, you pay yourself a regular salary as if you’re an employee, withholding taxes from your paycheck. This is required for businesses structured as S-corporations, C-corporations, or limited liability companies (LLCs) taxed as a corporation. With owner’s draw, you draw money from profits on an as-needed basis. Paying taxes up front every time you draw is not required, but you should set aside money regularly to budget for your tax bill.
Pay yourself a fixed percentage of your business’s net profit, which is revenue minus all operational expenses. This ensures you meet business obligations first, like paying employees.
2. Separate personal and business banking accounts
One crucial element to managing small business finances is to separate personal and business accounts. Separate accounts make it much easier to oversee funds and handle taxes. Open a business checking account and a short-term savings account, like a business savings account or money market account. Georgia’s Own offers various business checking and savings accounts designed to work for your business needs. There’s even a Business Account Comparison tool to help you along your decision process.
3. Use a business credit card
Similarly, you need a business credit card to keep your daily purchases separate from business purchases. Business credit cards make tracking expenses easy and accounting less complicated. You don’t need to sift through your credit card statement to determine which purchases were personal or business related. It’s also easier to get records together if you’re audited.
Business credit cards don’t sit on your credit report, either. Your business line of credit sits separately from your personal credit line, so your utilization rate doesn’t affect your credit score. However, most applicants experience a two- to five-point hit on their credit score because financial institutions use your credit report to assess creditworthiness. Another thing to keep in mind is if you default on a business credit card, the issuer can come after you, as your credit guarantees those cards.
4. Have a reasonable budget
Having a budget helps account for every cent that comes in and out of your business. To start your budget, make a list of expected monthly income sources, like any payment made in exchange for a product or service rendered. Next, make a list of expenses incurred, such as inventory, payroll, insurance premiums, taxes, overhead, or debt payments. Having a budget will allow you to plan out expenses, reach business goals, and anticipate operational changes. There are various budgeting styles in business, so it’s best to determine which method works best for your business.
5. Understand cash flow
It’s critical to understand where your money goes when running a business. Poor cash flow management or poor understanding of cash flow causes 82% of small business failures. You must have tight expense controls—and if your bills exceed the cash you have on hand, you have an issue with cash flow. Create a cash flow statement to analyze your financial health and update it monthly. This will help avoid unnecessary bank account overdrafts or overspending. If you use Excel, there is a free cash flow template to help you get started.
6. Practice good bookkeeping techniques
Bookkeeping allows business owners to keep track of all financial transactions conducted within a certain period (usually monthly). Practicing good bookkeeping techniques allows you to keep an accurate track of your income and costs. You can bookkeep using a traditional ledger book or software like Quickbooks or Xero. There are free options available, too. Before deciding on an accounting program, think about your operations. Figure out if you need to send invoices, whether you want mobile access or access for multiple users, credit card processing integration, and more.
7. Set money aside for taxes
Setting money aside for taxes will help you save big in the long run. There are a few tips and tricks for determining how much money you should set aside for taxes. You’ll need to pay federal taxes, including self-employment tax and income tax. These are paid quarterly to the IRS. If you hire employees, you’ll also have payroll tax. Depending on your business, you may have to pay state and local taxes, like sales tax, franchise tax, or property tax. You can learn more about state-specific taxes by visiting your state’s tax authority website.
A general rule is to set 30-40% of your business income aside to cover federal and state taxes. You can put money into your short-term savings account for your small business taxes as often as you want. Tax obligations for businesses vary, so consult your CPA to determine how much you should set aside.
8. Don’t be scared of loans…
Loans can be intimidating, but they can boost your business when used responsibly. Without an influx of capital, it can be hard to purchase equipment or grow your product line. Small businesses are also eligible for SBA loans. SBA loans help small businesses grow by allowing borrowers to obtain long-term operating capital at a reasonable cost, including longer terms or no prepayment penalties. They can be used for business start-ups, expansion, equipment purchases, and more.
9. But keep good business credit
While you shouldn’t be afraid of loans, you should keep your business credit in good standing. As your business grows, you may want to purchase more commercial real estate or equipment or additional insurance policies. Getting approved is difficult with poor business credit. Be sure you pay off debt funding as soon as possible. For example, don’t let business credit cards run a balance for more than a few weeks or take out loans you can’t afford. Only seek funding you can easily and quickly repay.
10. Schedule time to stay organized
One of the easiest ways to manage your small business finances is to stay organized. Set aside time each week or month to keep finances in line. This includes adding data to any financial software you use, scanning receipts, filing paperwork, or invoicing. Set aside 15 minutes to an hour each week to ensure your finances are in line.
You can even set aside time to update your own finances, as you want both your business and personal finances to be in order. For example, you can set aside 30 minutes one day of the week to take care of any financial housekeeping for your business. On another day, you can work for 30 minutes on any personal finance issues.
We know that managing your small business takes time, effort, and money. With the above tips, we hope it makes your business finances seem less daunting. At Georgia’s Own, we believe small businesses are the pillars of our community—that’s why we offer a comprehensive suite of products aligned to your business needs, from business checking and savings accounts to treasury management solutions and commercial loans. Whether you’re just getting started or are an established business, our experts are here to help.
How will rising inflation affect me?
Inflation is a term we hear quite a bit, but we may not fully understand what it means for us, or how it will affect our daily lives. But, as with any new idea you want to understand better, knowing is half the battle—and we have some info that can help you with the rest of the fight.
What is inflation?
Simply put, inflation just means you will pay more for the same goods and services. Your favorite brand of soda might go up a few cents; going to the movies will likely take a few more bucks than you’re used to. If you’ve ever heard Grandma tell you how cheap a gallon of milk used to be, you are familiar with inflation
Why does it happen?
Inflation seems to be the result of a few different phenomena:
The “Demand-Pull effect” – the demand for a product or service is higher than the current economy was prepared to meet. Prices rise as more and more consumers seek out certain items (see: toilet paper in 2020), often resulting in prices above the market value.
The “Cost-Push effect” – this effect works in the opposite direction—it’s the cost of the production process or service that rises, which in turn is passed onto consumers. Keeping up with demand while low on supplies or with increased price of supplies means the consumer pays more.
Built-in Inflation – when prices rise, those in the workforce need to increase their wages to keep up with the cost of living. It’s a cycle of inflation: prices rise, wages rise, and prices rise again.
How does it affect me?
Inflation affects everyone—some more than others. Here are some actions you can take if inflation affects you:
Rebuild your budget
We know you have a budget! And we also know that you know that budgets need to be reviewed and updated as life changes. This includes the changes that inflation brings. If you are currently dependent on a medication that is going to cost more, you need to factor that into your budget. If your grocery bill will go up, you need to factor that into your budget. You get the picture.
Take stock of your finances
If you’re worried about inflation and its effects, this is a great time to speak with a financial advisor who can help you determine the state of your finances and ways you can continue to budget and save. Getting an objective, professional opinion can go a long way in identifying potential danger areas and the places where you can grow your wallet.
Keep an eye on the job market
We’ve talked about how inflation means many earn higher wages, but it can also mean fewer jobs. If a company hopes to maintain their own budget while giving raises to some of their employees, there may be fewer jobs available. You don’t need to rush out and find a new job today; just keep your finger on the pulse of your own job while looking at options for others.
Know your home’s value
You may not be planning to move ever again, but it’s always a good idea to know the value of your home. This is a simple task—you can sign up for websites like Zillow that will give you an estimate of your home worth. Check out the value occasionally to keep in the back of your mind—you never know when that info could be useful, especially in the current housing market.
Check out your retirement plan
You or your partner are likely paying into a retirement plan already. While this is a great idea, you will want to take a look at the plan and see how inflation can affect your ability to save for the future.
If retirement is a long way off, you have a little more flexibility when it comes to making any changes. But if you’re looking to get out of the workforce in the next few years, review your retirement account and make necessary changes to ensure your financial security.
Inflation is a fact of life—but you don’t have to be afraid of it. Some of these changes may seem overwhelming, but you’ve already won half the battle with your new knowledge. Make a goal this week to sit down, review your budget, and determine your best next steps for keeping your financial security stable.