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How to stop anxiety from ruling your finances
Financial decisions are rarely easy, whether it’s buying your first car or home or deciding whether to refinance student loans.
The anxiety can be heightened for millennials who witnessed economic turmoil during the Great Recession as they weigh milestone financial choices as adults.
“Many [millennials] grew up and saw their parents lose a house or have to delay retirement,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist and associate professor at Creighton University. “Of course, they are going to be anxious.”
In fact, a survey this year by insurance company Northwestern Mutual found that this generation not only has a stronger inclination to make financial plans compared with older generations, but also has a higher level of anxiety about whether they are following the right strategy.
The survey found that 66% of millennials (those born from 1981 to 1996) said they were “highly disciplined” or “disciplined” financial planners, compared with 60% of Generation X (born 1965-1980) and 52% of baby boomers (born 1946-1964).
At the same time, 70% of millennials said their financial planning needs improvement. That’s compared with 68% of Gen Xers and 52% of baby boomers.
There are ways to reduce the stress of financial decisions. Start by identifying your attitude toward money. Then, take action in a way that’s tailored for you and turn to others who’ve been there.
Know your attitude toward money
Most of us grow up with a specific approach toward money, often learned from our parents, imbibed from those around us, or informed by our own experiences.
Being aware of your relationship with money can help you avoid pitfalls like worrying too much. Klontz, the author of several books on finances and psychology, says he’s found four common approaches to money: worship, avoidance, vigilance, and status.
For example, those who are vigilant about money always worry about having enough and experience trouble making spending decisions. On the other hand, avoiders don’t look at bills or statements until they absolutely have to, Klontz says.
Another source of insight about your financial mindset is Gretchen Rubin’s book “The Four Tendencies,” which explores what drives people’s decisions. She categorizes people as obligers, questioners, rebels, and upholders.
“Your ‘tendency’ shapes your perspective on the world and influences what kinds of [financial] strategies will work for you,” Rubin says. For example, a “questioner” likes doing their own research and will only seek outside counsel they trust, Rubin says.
Take actions tailored to you
Once you’ve identified your attitude toward money, use that knowledge to ease the anxiety of financial decisions.
Make a to-do list
a financial to-do list, says Eric Tyson, author of “Personal Finance for Dummies” and a former financial advisor. You could calculate how much money you earn and spend every month or add tasks like saving money for a goal or getting your credit in shape for a loan.
“Prioritize it, get some early victories,” he says. “Don’t beat yourself up thinking you’ve got to do it quickly.”
If you’re an “obliger” and want to save up for a goal, use accountability to get started and stay motivated, Rubin says. That may be in the form of friends, a financial advisor or thinking about what you want in the future, she says.
Visualize the end goal
If you are a “rebel” who doesn’t like being told what to do and wants to pay off debt, think of the freedom you’ll have when you’re debt-free. Set up automatic payments so you don’t have to think about them, Rubin says. The automatic payments option is effective for anyone, she notes.
Turn to others for guidance
Tyson says the biggest mistake he’s seen people make is that they don’t get advice—or rely on one source—before making a financial decision.
“If your Uncle Joe seems financially savvy, you can run your thinking by him, but you should be selective about taking one person’s advice as gospel,” Tyson says.
If you want an expert’s perspective, turn to a fiduciary fee-only financial advisor. Advisors who are paid by fees only, not commissions, have fewer conflicts of interest; those who follow the fiduciary standard put clients’ interests ahead of their own. Or you can set up a free consultation with a nonprofit credit counselor.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.
Amrita Jayakumar is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ajbombay.
Can you save money by cutting cable?
Whether it’s Comcast, DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse, Xfinity, or DISH Network, your cable service is expensive. It’s also the main reason people have been saying bye-bye to traditional pay-TV services. With the dramatic switch of viewers to online streaming, TV antennas, and other entertainment options, cable companies are struggling to retain subscribers and are quickly losing their financial foothold on the market.
Yes, cable still has some good shows like This is Us, The Walking Dead, and Survivor, but you don’t necessarily need a cable box to watch them. If you’re thinking of cutting the cable cord, here are a few options you’ll need to consider about life after-cable TV:
Consider an HD antenna
Antennas have come a long way from rabbit ears and tinfoil (which still works, BTW). Antennas provide free local and live network TV, but the most popular ones now provide it in HD. With just the cost of the antenna and no additional subscription needed, it’s the least expensive and simplest alternative once you call it quits with your cable provider. Just plug the antenna into your TV and point it toward the window. It’s ideal for news and sports but offers limited channels, and where you live has a lot to do with what you’re able to watch. Closer proximity to broadcast towers delivers better reception so those in urban areas can expect the clearest pictures and the best channel selection.
Choose your streaming service and your device
If you’ve purchased a TV in the last few years, it’s likely a Smart TV, which means you already have access to the streaming services that you need. Apps for popular services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, among others, come already installed on a Smart TV. With a monthly subscription of $8 – $17 per month or $119 per year, depending on the service, you’ll have more TV entertainment than you could possibly enjoy in any couch-potato life.
If you currently don’t have a Smart TV, it’s an easy fix. The simplest alternative is to download the streaming app on your laptop computer and watch online. If you prefer, you can also watch it on your TV if you attach your computer via HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, or DVI cable.
If plugging your laptop into your TV each time isn’t ideal, there are other reasonably priced options, like set-top boxes, streaming sticks, game consoles, or other devices, that accomplish the same thing. The most popular choices are made by Roku, Apple, Google, and Amazon and range in price from $35 to $400.
Replace your cable provider with another service
If you’re nervous about cutting yourself off from the cable world and your favorite daily channels, consider a cable replacement service. It’s a subscription service, just like the cable company, but somewhat less expensive. Services like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV fall into this category and subscription prices range from $25 per month to $80. The services include different channels, so if you’re hooked on ESPN or need to watch Nickelodeon on Saturday mornings, it’ll impact your selection.
Another service to consider is Plex, which allows users to create their own media library on their personal computer and then stream it to their web browser, game consoles, or other media players. The service allows for screen mirroring, recording live TV, and sharing libraries with friends. Best of all, it’s basic service is FREE.
With so many options, we can see why people are making the switch. If you’re paying for a service and there may be a better option that meets your needs and your budget, it’s worth a look.
New Year, Better Finances: 5 Resolutions for 2019
Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions – whether it’s trying to lose weight, find a new job, reduce stress, and everything in between. One popular resolution is saving money, but this goal can be difficult to achieve. So, here are five, simple ways to start (and keep!) your financial resolution for 2019.
Create a budget with your goals in mind
Set a financial goal, and with that in mind, make a realistic budget that you’ll stick with throughout the year. If you’re not sure where to start, check out free financial wellness tools like ACHIEVE. Don’t forget to take advantage of budgeting tools. With apps like Mint and other online programs, budgeting has never been simpler! Or, if you like to keep things traditional, create a spreadsheet with all of your expenses and income, and lay out a plan so you’re able to put some cash back into a savings account. And speaking of savings…
Stop shopping, start saving
Since the holiday shopping season is over, it’s time to focus on savings. It’s extremely simple to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings using online banking. If you’re currently setting aside $20 each month, consider upping that amount by $10 (or whatever amount works for you). By saving $30 per month instead of $20, you’ll have an extra $120 by the end of the year. Odds are you’ll hardly miss that extra $10 per month.
Pick a weekly “no-spend” day
Start the new year with a new habit by committing to “no-spend” days. Once a week, try not to spend anything. Cook the food in your fridge or cupboard (get creative!), and make your morning latte at home with some steamed milk. If your no-spend day falls on a weekday, prepare breakfast and lunch the night before, wake up a few minutes early to make coffee, and cook for dinner later that night. Find some free entertainment by watching a movie or playing a board game with family and friends. It’ll be a fun reminder that you’ve kept a couple extra bucks in your pocket for the week.
Clean out your wallet
No, we’re not talking about the mess of receipts you may have stashed in your purse (we’re all guilty). Do you have more credit cards than you bargained for? Take a closer look – are you using all of your cards enough to warrant any annual fees or payments? If not, consider which ones are worth keeping, or if it’s time to upgrade to a credit card that better fits your needs. If you’ve opened up a store card for a couple of benefits here and there, but have to pay an annual fee or an insane interest rate, is it still worth it? Ask yourself these questions and lighten the load in your pocket by closing a few cards. (Heads up: if you’re concerned about your credit score, think before you close long-time cards. Length of credit plays a major role in your credit rating.)
New year, no debt
Saving money is key, but it’s hard to save when your money is going toward paying off debts. Make 2019 the year you take control of your debt. One option is to consolidate (or combine) multiple debts into one, which usually means a more favorable interest rate and payoff terms. Plus, you’ll have one payment versus many. Before consolidating your debts, do the math to make sure you’re getting a good deal and a manageable payment. Consolidation is best used with student loans and credit card debt, so see what works best for you. Keep in mind if you consolidate federal student loans, you may lose certain borrower benefits from your original loans, such as interest rate discounts.
Balance transfers are another option for managing and reducing credit card debt. Many cards offer balance transfer perks, such as reduced or no interest for a specified period of time. As long as you’re able to pay off the transferred balance in full within the timeframe, you’ll save money on interest and knock out your higher rate debt sooner.
What are your financial resolutions for 2019? Let us know in the comments!
Smart ways to save money on Amazon
If you’re buying something online, chances are you’re headed to Amazon.com. Selection, convenience, service, and price are what keep consumers coming back day in and day out and bookmarking the site as one of their favorites.
Don’t be fooled, though. While Amazon’s prices are typically among the lowest, that’s no reason to stop shopping around. But, if price comparisons bring you back to old faithful, there may still be room for savings.
Here are some smart tips for getting the best deals on Amazon.
1. Subscribe and Save
If you’re purchasing items on a regular basis, like laundry detergent, baby food, dog treats, or paper products, be sure to “subscribe and save.” Choose your schedule and quantity, and you’ll receive automatic deliveries of your favorite items when you’re running low. The Subscribe and save feature offers discounts on thousands of items, free shipping, and lets you save up to up to 15% on your entire order. If you’re a Prime Member, you could save up to 20%!
2. Check out Today’s Deals
Electronics, toys, books, snacks, jewelry, fashion, and more–Amazon offers new deals every day. Shop Lightening Deals, Deal of the Day, and Limited-Time Deals when you visit Amazon, or let the deals come to you and opt for a Daily Deals email.
3. “Clip” Amazon coupons
Bet you didn’t know you could use coupons at Amazon.com, did you? From vitamins to motor oil, goldfish crackers to flip-flops, Amazon offers online coupons that further discount your purchases. Simply click the coupon button and choose the offers that apply. Add your coupon-eligible product to your cart and the discount will be automatically applied at checkout. Want a list of available coupons each week? Subscribe and receive Amazon’s weekly coupon email.
4. Send in the trackers
Price tracker apps like Honey will scan pricing from all other Amazon marketplace sellers to make sure you’re getting the best deal. It’ll also give you the price history for the last 30, 60, or 120 days and send you an email alert if the price drops. At checkout, it’ll automatically apply the best promo and coupon codes. Don’t shop on Amazon without it.
5. Double dip with Ebates
If you don’t have an Ebates account, you’re missing out on some serious cash back opportunities. Use the portal to shop on Amazon.com and you can earn an additional 3-5% in rewards, depending on the item.
6. Determine your Prime needs
Amazon Prime offers members free two-day shipping, unlimited photo storage, music and video streaming, access to special discounts and a whole lot more. Sign up for and take full advantage of the 30-day trial before you buy the $99 annual membership to get that extra month of benefits. Then, be sure to add your family members to your account through Amazon Household so they can share in the savings, too!
If you’re a college student with a school email address than ends in .edu, Amazon offers a free six-month trial membership. Once the trial period expires, it’ll upgrade to an Amazon Prime Student membership that only costs $49 a year.
If you’re not into long commitments, you can opt for the Monthly Prime memberships. It’s only $12.99 for a traditional membership and $6.49 for a student membership.
Amazon’s minimum amount required to qualify for free shipping is only $25. Consider the amount and frequency of your Amazon purchases to determine whether or not any Prime membership is a smart investment for you.
7. Slow down for credits
As you check out and place your order, you’ll be prompted to choose a shipping option. Prime members who forgo the free two-day shipping will receive promotional credits that can be applied to future purchases. Be sure to note the expected delivery dates for each option. Sometimes there’s only one additional day you’ll have to wait, which is well worth the savings, in some cases.
8. Get rid of your old stuff
Amazon’s trade-in program will take your old tablets, DVDs, CDs, phones, video games, speakers, and books in exchange for Amazon gift cards. Clean out some clutter, make a few bucks, and buy anything you want on Amazon.
9. Return it for free
With any Amazon purchase, be sure to look for the free returns feature on the item’s product page. Amazon won’t refund your original shipping fee, but a free return option may be the deciding factor between two products or two sellers. It will also allow you to buy with confidence knowing that you won’t have to keep something you don’t absolutely love.
10. Consider the value of nearly new
Check out Amazon Warehouse, a collection of open-box items, including tablets, laptops, TVs, appliances, tools, home goods, clothing and more. The items are typically returns that may have been used, refurbished, or repackaged, but the condition is always clearly noted before you buy. Whether it’s in excellent, good, or fair condition, you still won’t be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, but if it’s that important, you can purchase one from Square Trade.
Spring Cleaning for Your Finances
Spring is the time when many people start thinking about purging clutter — that sounds good to us. We suggest expanding that purge to reducing your paperwork, trimming your expenses, and boosting your savings. Sound overwhelming? Don’t worry, we’re here to help.
If it wasn’t one of your New Year’s resolutions, now is a great time to review your budget and see where you can tidy up your spending. Even if managing your budget was one of your resolutions, take the time to see how you’re doing so far. Are there other areas where you can cut spending?
- Cutting the Cord – The movement to replace cable or satellite service and opting for streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu is gaining momentum.
- Gym Membership – If you have a gym membership, are you getting your money’s worth? If not, cancel it. There are other ways to burn those calories that don’t require a membership.
- Cell Phone – Consider changing your plan or even going pre-paid to free up some cash.
- Dining Out – Cook more meals at home. Pack lunches for work or school.
Automate Your Savings
Saving is easy to forget, and money has a way of vanishing when it isn’t designated for a specific function. You have to be deliberate about saving to achieve your goals. By automating the process, you can put a plan in motion and let it take care of itself.
- Set Up Automatic Transfers – If your paycheck is direct deposit, have a set amount from each check go directly to savings. You’ll be less tempted to spend it if it never hits your checking account.
- Round-up Savings Apps – Some apps will round up the change from each debit card transaction and deposit it into a savings or investment account. For example, swipe your card for $4.65 and $0.35 automatically gets transferred into a savings or investment account, depending on the app.
Set Up Automatic Payments
Setting up automatic payments either through online bill pay or your service provider’s website (i.e., cell phone, credit cards, utilities, etc.) makes your finances more efficient and reduces the stress of remembering due dates or paying a late fee because you missed a payment. Keep an eye on your account to ensure you have sufficient funds to cover the automatic payments.
Organize or Shred Old Documents
Reducing the clutter of old documents and paperwork can be refreshing. The tips below can help you do it the right way:
- Shred, Don’t Toss – Throwing old documents in the trash increases your risk of identity theft. Shred them in a shredder. If you don’t own a shredder, Georgia’s Own hosts shred day events for members to securely get rid of paperwork.
- Tax Documents – Don’t get too carried away with purging your documents. Remember, the IRS has up to six years to audit you. Hang on to tax returns and supporting documents for at least that long.
- Scan or Snap – If you’re unsure whether you’ll need a document, you can scan a copy to your computer or snap a photo of it with your phone.
Cut Down on Junk Mail
One of the best ways to reduce paperwork is to keep it from ever showing up. You can opt out of pre-screened offers for credit cards and insurance at optoutprescreen.com. Less junk mail means less paperwork to shred.
How to Build an Emergency Fund
Everyone needs to save for the unexpected. When you have nothing in reserve, anything unexpected becomes an emergency that has to go on a credit card.
It could be a job loss or medical bill — or something as small as a car repair or a lost phone. A financial buffer can keep you afloat in a time of need and let you recover without going into debt. That’s why an emergency fund is more important when you’re barely scraping by, rather than later on, when you might have more savings, better credit, home equity or a higher income.
“One of the first steps in climbing out of debt is to give yourself a way to not go further into debt,” says Liz Weston, NerdWallet columnist.
To build an emergency fund, consider these questions.
How big should my emergency fund be?
The exact answer to this depends on your financial circumstances and how much insurance you have, but a good rule of thumb is to have enough to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses. This can give you enough time, for instance, to find a new job or supplement your unemployment benefits until you do.
But anything in the bank is better than nothing — and $500 will get you out of many scrapes that would otherwise put you in the hole.
Start small, Weston says, but start.
Where do I put my emergency fund?
Since an emergency can strike at any time, having quick access to your cash is crucial. Consider a savings account, since the money will be safe and you’ll be able to withdraw it without hassle. This should be a separate account from one you use daily so you’re not tempted to dip into your reserves.
What steps do I take to start an emergency fund?
- Set a monthly savings goal.This will get you into the habit of saving regularly and will make the task less daunting. Contributing a small percentage from each paycheck, for instance, is one way to do this.
- Keep the change.When you get $1 and $5 bills after breaking a $20, drop some in a jar at home. When the jar fills up, move it into your savings account.
- Tidy up your checking account.If there’s money left at the end of a pay period, move some into your emergency fund.
- Save your tax refund. The average refund is in the thousands, which can give a good boost to your emergency savings. (See “9 Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund.”) When you file your taxes, consider having your refund directly deposited into your emergency account. Alternatively, adjust your W-4 tax form so that you have less money withheld, and direct the extra into your emergency fund.
- Cut back on costs.If you’re falling short on saving, see which parts of your monthly spending you can trim. Some ways to do this include carpooling, cooking meals at home, saving leftovers and avoiding small daily purchases like takeout coffee. Put the money in your emergency fund as you “save” it.
- Get supplemental income.If you have the time and willpower, get a second job or sell unused items at home to accumulate more money for your fund. (See “10 Ways to Find Fast Cash, More Savings.”)
- Assess and adjust contributions.Check in after a few months to see how much you’re saving, and adjust if you need to put in more. This is especially important if you go through a major life event such as marriage or a move to a new city.
An emergency fund is for emergencies
What’s an emergency? Something that affects your health or ability to earn money.
What’s not an emergency?
- Holidays, birthdays and mental pick-me-ups for yourself or significant others.
- A car repair if you can hitch a ride or take the bus.
- A great deal on something you don’t need.
- Expenses that aren’t surprises, like car insurance.
Draw a line between savings for emergencies and savings for anything else. In fact, once you’ve hit a reasonable threshold of emergency savings, Weston says, it’s a good idea to begin another account for irregular but inevitable items such as car maintenance, vacations and clothing.