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5 Money Warning Signs Not to Miss
No one likes to think of being in financial trouble. But the truth is that many people who aren’t ready for or expecting financial trouble often find themselves ignoring some of the most common warning signs. If you’re not sure whether these warning signs apply to you, read on to learn more about the red flags you should look for to indicate trouble in your finances.
1. Not paying your bills
This may seem obvious, but when you begin to skip bills, it often has a snowball effect: the next bill is higher, and the next one is even higher, and you can find yourself in a lot more debt within a matter of months. If you notice that you are skipping bills or even just pushing back on paying them until they are overdue, it’s time to look at your budget and see what you can change. If you don’t feel there is anything you can cut out or reduce, it might be time to consult some financial experts.
2. Over-drafting your bank account
Are you constantly getting notified that your bank account has reached zero dollars, or even less? That is a red flag you will not want to ignore. Overdrawing your account once by accident is one thing, but doing it regularly means you have to make some changes. Either you are not putting enough money in to cover your bills, or you are going overbudget pretty often. Whatever the case, it’s time to put a stop to it. Ask your bank if they offer any type of overdraft protection service to keep you from hitting that $0 on the regular, and then see what changes you can make each day to maintain the funds in your account.
3. Not tracking your spending
If you are constantly surprised by the number of dollars in your checking account, even if it isn’t a low number, that isn’t a good sign. Even those people who have plenty of financial resources to spare will tell you that tracking that money is essential to making sure all your needs are covered. You may think you can keep up with every bill and charge and expense in your head, but the truth is that you just can’t. Balancing checkbooks is not exactly in vogue anymore, but there are plenty of ways to keep up with your finances, especially if you use a bank that allows you to track your balance online.
4. Living for the next paycheck
There is an increasing amount of people who live paycheck to paycheck – that is, they spend all the money they have and must wait for the next paycheck to be able to make any more purchases. For some people, this is a daily reality that cannot be changed due to extenuating circumstances. However, for others, this is an opportunity to look for ways you can cut back on your spending. Think of it as a game or experiment: how creative can you get to save even a few bucks from each of your paycheck? Can you make more meals at home, or pare down your streaming services to just your favorite one? Much like debt tends to snowball quickly, you’ll be surprised at how you can start saving money with just a couple dollars and watch that amount grow over a few months.
5. You don’t have any financial goals
Do you have a lifelong dream of going to the Caribbean? Do you want to own your home one day, or buy a new car for the first time ever? Many people who have goals like these have an easier time saving up their money, because they are motivated. But if you don’t have a goal, it’s much harder to save, and you are in more danger of running out of funds.
Your goal doesn’t have to be extravagant. You can make it something small to start, like treating yourself to a spa weekend if you have saved a certain amount of money every month for six months. As you watch your savings grow, you might find that goals grow, too – it’s all about believing what is possible and being motivated to make it happen.
In a perfect world, we would never have to worry about money. But since we do have to worry about it, take some of the stress off your shoulders by managing your money the smartest way you can. Know your financial limits, set some goals for your spending, and see if you can turn these warning signs into a cautionary tale that no longer applies to you.
Selling your stuff: a quick guide to the online marketplace
We all have too much stuff: whether it’s that pair of jeans from high school that are taking up space in the bottom of your drawer, or the giant kitchen mixer that you don’t use but just can’t bring yourself to throw away, we all have those one or two or fifty items that need to find a new home.
If you think your items are worth something, you might try selling them online, through websites and apps that are designed to help you make your trash someone else’s treasure.
Where to Sell
There is no shortage of options when it comes to places you can sell your items. But you want to make sure that you are selling through a site or service that has a reliable reputation and makes it easy for you to sell your items.
eBay: Ah, a classic. eBay has been around since the mid-90s, offering people the chance to sell their unwanted possessions all over the world. eBay is the preferred online selling resource for a lot of people, especially because you don’t have to meet anyone in person – everything is delivered right to your door.
eBay also boasts a wide variety of products, ranging from homemade goods to car engines to hard-to-find collectors items. One caveat: eBay does charge its sellers a fee to make more than 200 posts each month, as well as a percentage of the final value that your item sells for. Items also automatically relist each month, meaning they will count toward your free total unless you take the listing down.
Let Go: This app has risen in popularity over the last few years, and many people find that it is a convenient one-stop-shop for selling their items. The app takes steps to verify and authenticate users, and allows you to communicate over its chat feature so you don’t have to give out any personal information. Let Go also partners with SafeExchangePoint.com, which helps users find safe, public places to meet up to complete the sale. The app also makes it convenient to check messages and the status of your items even if you are out running errands or working.
Craigslist: This website has everything – and we mean everything. With the ability to search for items within a certain radius of your home, Craigslist makes it easy for you to get what you need in a timely manner. However, it’s important to note that Craigslist does not employ a high level of identity authentication, nor do they closely monitor posts for fraud or scams.
This means you will be to be extra diligent in deciding what information to list, where to meet up with buyers, and how you will take payment. The good news is that you will reach a broader audience very quickly, and there is no fee to join. Depending on what you want to sell, you may be charged a low fee to post certain items, like job openings or vehicles for sale.
Facebook Marketplace: Social media has joined in on the virtual garage sale gig, and they do a decent job helping you find what you need in your area. As with the other services we mentioned, Facebook Marketplace can be very successful, but shouldn’t be relied on for steady income. But if you are looking to declutter and make a few bucks, start posting and see what interest you can find.
One advantage of using Facebook Marketplace is that you can post in multiple selling groups at once to increase your chances of selling all of your items. And, of course, Facebook is free to join and the marketplace does not charge any fees. You can also comment on your own post periodically (unless the rules of the group say otherwise) to keep your items at the top of the list for new buyers.
What else do I need to know?
There are a few more tips you’ll want to know before you start selling online…
Always meet in a public place
Safety first – always find a safe or public spot to meet up to sell your items to your buyer. You can even meet in the parking lot of a local police station if that makes you feel better. If you are giving someone your address to pick up an item, only send that info through a private message; don’t add it to the post for everyone to see. Let someone know where you are going to meet your buyer and when you expect to return so they can check in with you once the item is sold.
If you post an item for sale online, you need to be prepared to follow through. This means checking for messages from interested buyers, as well as making sure you make and follow a plan to drop off the items they buy from you. Many websites ask buyers to rate sellers on their level of responsiveness, so answering messages and questions quickly will help build your reputation as a seller.
Take lots of photos
If you want your items to sell quickly, be sure to take some photos to go along with your post to catch the eye of interested buyers. Make these photos as clear and uncluttered as possible to showcase your items and set yourself up for success. Include your asking price and any relevant details with the photos, such as whether your home has pets or how long you have owned/used the item.
Know the rules
Every virtual selling platform will be different, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of each one. Some Facebook groups require you to let potential buyers know if you have posted in more than one group. Or you may need to disclose the type of condition your item is in so people know what they can expect. Review the rules before you make any posts to sell your items so the process can go smoothly and efficiently for all involved.
If you have some extra items around the house that you think can make you a few bucks, there is no harm in finding out! Remember that your safety needs to be a priority, and that the more effort you put into making your post look great, the more likely it is someone will want to buy your items. Happy selling!
Can you get paid to take online surveys?
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the internet has never been more vital. But if you are stuck inside longing for the day you can sit inside your favorite restaurant once again, you might as well take the opportunity to make a few extra bucks, courtesy of online surveys.
While this concept isn’t new, the experience and results of those who tried it have varied, so read on for some tips and tricks on the best ways to get paid for taking online surveys.
Why Would I Want to Do This?
Let’s be real – you’re on the internet most of the day anyway. Getting paid to do that is just a bonus. Taking the surveys and getting paid for it can be done from virtually anywhere you have your phone or laptop or any other access to the internet.
While each survey will vary in length and topic, you won’t spend more than a few minutes at a time answering them, which means you can fit it in between work meetings or before you get ready for the day.
Where Do I Go?
There are a lot of options for online surveys, but be on the lookout for scams and sites that do not pay as advertised. It’s smartest to stick to the ones that people have verified as being legitimate and that have actually paid their participants as promised. According to some researchers who actually signed up and took surveys from several sites, there are several reputable options:
Survey Junkie: This website received top marks from multiple sources. It’s free to sign up and create an account to take your surveys, and you can also use existing platforms like Facebook or Google to add your information to make that process even simpler. When you take a survey, you earn points. You’ll get your first points by completing your profile, and from there, it’s up to you. Once you reach 1000 points, or $10, you can choose to cash out or keep taking surveys. Payment is made through either PayPal or through e-gift cards.
Swagbucks: This company made big news when it first rolled out the idea of paying people to take surveys. Since then, thousands of people have taken online surveys to earn extra cash. Swagbucks uses a similar point system as Survey Junkie, and also requires minimum point amounts be met before you can cash out your earnings. Aside from online surveys, Swagbucks also offers opportunities to earn points by watching videos and referring friends, along with other ideas you can find here.
OneOpinion: With a reputation for being one of the easiest online survey websites to sign up for, OneOpinion also makes a name for itself by being easy to navigate and providing customer support when needed. They also operate on the points system, though you may have to wait a little longer to cash out – 1,000 points equals $1, and you can only cash out at a minimum of 25,000 points. Still, they provide ample opportunity for you to earn those points, especially if you have some extra time.
Can I Take Every Survey?
Most of these websites are looking for a specific demographic to fill out their survey. Some of them may be more general, like anyone between the ages of 18 and 45. Others may be looking only for women between the ages of 30 and 35 who have two children. Most of the surveys have a screening process in place to determine if you are eligible to take the survey. Some sites, like OneOpinion, have a much lower disqualification rate than places like Swagbucks, which has a lot of survey options but is quicker to disqualify you based on its demographic needs.
Is it Worth It?
As with many of the treasures we discover on the internet, the success of this endeavor really depends on how much time you can devote to it. Taking surveys won’t replace your nine-to-five job. But if you are just interested in making a few extra bucks before the holidays and you have the time, you can definitely make these online surveys work for you.
Is it Safe?
There is always a risk involved when you give anyone your personal information. Before you decide to move forward, take some time to review each site’s policy on privacy and what information they will be sharing with others. If you decide to sign up using an existing account like Facebook, it’s a good idea to change your password every few months to ensure your information remains secure. You can even create a whole new email just for taking surveys, because you will likely be spammed with promotions from the site once you sign up.
Taking online surveys is not a guarantee, and it has its drawbacks. But if you are safe with your information and just want to add a little bit of spending money to your wallet, these surveys might be exactly what you need.
Life insurance 101: Do you need it and how much does it cost?
No one likes to think about needing life insurance. But the only way to understand is to, well, understand it. Before you decide that you do or don’t need life insurance, you need to understand what it is, what it costs, and what it could mean for you and your family.
What is life insurance?
Life insurance is a service provided by insurance companies – in exchange for monthly payments, they provide a lump sum payment, known as a death benefit, to the beneficiaries of the person paying when that person passes away. For most people, the beneficiaries would be their family members.
How do I get it?
If you (or your spouse) receive insurance benefits through your workplace, it is likely that there is a life insurance plan available as well. Reach out to your Human Resources department to find out if life insurance is an option for you through your company, and what you need to do to learn more about it. There are also insurance companies that offer life insurance to anyone who qualifies – you do not have to go through the insurance provided by your work.
But wouldn’t using my current insurance provider make it easier?
There are pros and cons to acquiring life insurance through your work. On one hand, it is much more convenient to do a work-sponsored plan, and you will likely get a better rate. On the other hand, that means your life insurance is tied to your job, so if you lose your job for any reason, you would lose those benefits, and potentially have a gap in coverage where you would no longer have life insurance until you found your next job.
What does it cover?
Life insurance, much like your typical medical insurance, can be tailored (to a degree) to fit your needs. For instance, if you have children, you will want to ensure that the payment amount of the death benefit would be sufficient to cover their expenses until other resources are available.
Or if you are about to get married, look for policies that cover things like student loan debts, home expenses, and other daily needs. If you have a family member with special needs who requires medical equipment or therapy, you will want to consider those costs as well.
Can anyone get it?
There are eligibility considerations when it comes to life insurance. The majority of people will qualify for life insurance without an issue. But, just like other types of insurance, there is an underwriting process that takes place to determine your eligibility.
The underwriter will look at things like your health, medical history, family history, lifestyle habits (i.e., smoking, any dangerous activities you undertake regularly, etc.), and you may also need a physical exam before the insurance company makes a final decision. You may learn that you have to pay more than you expected because you are a higher risk to insure, but there is little chance you will not be eligible at all.
Are there different kinds?
There are three different types of life insurance policies that you may have to choose between: term, universal, and whole. The main differences are the longevity of the policy, the flexibility of the policy, and the cost. For instance, term life insurance is designed to cover a specific period in your life, such as the next 20 or 30 years. But it also costs less than a whole life insurance policy, which is more expensive but covers your entire life instead of just the pre-determined time period. Work with your insurance provider to understand all of your options.
Do I really need it?
Again, this is not a pleasant subject for anyone to consider. But it is a necessary one. Only you and your family can determine together if life insurance is the right step; however, we would encourage you to give it some serious thought before making a decision.
It is a financial obligation, and if you have other ways of providing for your family in the unlikely event of your death, you may decide life insurance is not for you. Or if you are worried about how your family would function without your income, you might realize that having this extra insurance policy is worth the extra cost in the long run. It all depends on what you need and what you’ve already planned for your future.
Who can help me understand this better?
When you Google “life insurance,” you will be greeted with a page full of ads, but very little information. Look for resources like this Fidelity website, which breaks down some of the basic questions, or this website that takes you through the underwriting process.
Your best bet is to call the insurance company directly and ask, or, if you are comfortable doing so, talk to a coworker who uses your insurance to see if they are satisfied with the service they receive. Human Resources will also be able to give you additional help and places for research.
Five best side hustles to earn extra money
This year more than most, you may have found yourself getting creative to stretch your budget a little farther than usual. Some extra income would be ideal, but you are not able to take on a job right now in addition to the other responsibilities in your life. But if you could find a source of income that worked with your schedule and skills while also allowing you some breathing room for your budget, wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity? Read on for five great ways to bring in a little extra money each month.
Were you a teacher in a past life? Or, if not, do you feel you have always had a talent for understanding algebra or chemistry? Put those skills to work for you and find some local students who need tutoring. Tutors are needed now more than ever, as many students find they need extra help to navigate learning during this unusual school year.
You can even expand beyond your local community and offer tutoring over a video service like Zoom, or sign up with a program like VIPKid to have a more steady schedule. If you have the time and space, you could also set up a weekly tutoring session for multiple kids in your home or at a local park.
If you have a gift for writing, consider looking into opportunities to do some freelance work. Many websites or magazines are looking for writers who can assist them in creating new content and covering relevant topics for the audience they want to reach.
Websites like Upwork will even help you sort through various opportunities and find which jobs may be a good fit for you. Make a note that Upwork and other similar websites often charge a fee for their services; however, if you can swing the extra funds, the eventual payoff will be much greater.
As much as we wish shopping for shoes or golf clubs could bring in extra money, we are talking about the grocery shopping service, Instacart. This relatively new service has gained a lot of popularity in 2020 as more people opt to do their grocery shopping online. Instacart allows people to pay a personal shopper – which would be you – to help them find the grocery items they need and deliver them to their home. If you are a champion at your local grocery store and are looking for the next challenge to test your skills, this could be your time to shine. Much of this income relies on tips, so if you want to try this out, be prepared to put your best foot forward.
When is the last time you had a yard sale? There are probably a few things around your home that you don’t really need anymore, and selling them could bring in a little extra cash. Shoes, clothes, baby items, books – these are all things that take up a lot of space in your house, even though you don’t use all of them. Get together with a neighbor or two and host a garage sale to not only add to your wallet, but also declutter your home. If you are not a fan of garage sales, take some pictures of the items you want to get rid of and use online selling options, like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
If you have a creative outlet that can benefit someone else, make a plan to sell some of your products! You might be really handy with power tools, or maybe you are always getting comments on your custom-made t-shirts, or people can’t stop raving about your hand-knit scarves – your ability to create could also create an opportunity to bring in some money. Set up a free account for your new business on places like Facebook or Instagram, and let your community know that you are selling some high-quality, one-of-a-kind items.
This is the time to think outside the box – even if you never saw yourself taking a writing job or being a personal grocery shopper, 2020 has taught us to expect the unexpected, and to roll with the changes life brings us. Decide what direction you want to go, make a plan, and see where your new side-hustle takes you.
Five ways to celebrate National Financial Awareness Day
August 14th is National Financial Awareness day—a day dedicated to preparing for your financial future and building financial stability. It’s crucial to take the time to review your finances—sound monetary decisions can make a significant impact in the long run. Today, try to complete one of the items below so you can take control of your finances.
Check your savings
Take a look at your savings account—in the event of an emergency, do you have enough funds to get you through? If not, use today to set goals to ensure you’re saving for the future. Calculate your monthly expenses and develop a plan of action to ensure you have the recommended three to six months’ worth of savings.
Reevaluate your budget
Have you found yourself not sticking to your budget lately? Take the time to reevaluate your spending and make changes where you see fit. Periodically reviewing your budget is a crucial step that is overlooked. Make it a habit to frequently assess your budget and see what should be adjusted.
Brush up on your financial literacy
Financial literacy is key to being confident in the monetary decisions you make, and it can be easy to forget the basics. Take the time today to brush up on your financial literacy. There are dozens of free tools to help, like ACHIEVE, a free financial literacy program from Georgia’s Own. ACHIEVE offers various topics and videos on essentials like owning a home, financial caregiving, planning for retirement, and more.
Take steps to improve your credit
Your credit score is a critical representation of your financial past, present, and future. You need good credit for just about anything, like owning a home, applying for an auto loan, or applying for a credit card—your credit score can even determine the price of your auto insurance. Look at your credit score and see where you can improve. If you don’t know your score, visit the federally authorized site annualcreditreport.com to receive a free copy of your credit report.
Get a head start on taxes
It’s never too early to get a head start on taxes. Begin gathering necessary documents, like receipts, expense records, and donations, then put them in an organized folder, so you have them prepared for when you’re ready to file. Preparing paperwork beforehand will save you time—and sanity—when tax season begins. If you want to take it a step further, you can even organize your tax records from the past few years, so you have those prepared if the IRS ever needs to conduct an audit.
We hope these tips help you take control over your financial future. And, as always, Georgia’s Own is available to help—click here to find more resources to help you make smart monetary decisions.