CategoryCredit 101

Under the Influence: 40% of Americans Have Purchased Something Seen on Social Media

Social media has wormed its way into most aspects of our lives. It’s how many adults make friends, find dates, and even build career networks. It’s a virtual portfolio of our personal and public selves, and of course many of us want to show our best online. Which presents the question — how do you influence others, and how do others influence you on social media?

More than a third of Americans admit that social media has influenced their spending habits and that they overspend to keep up with their friends’ fun. Meanwhile, 64 percent of Americans are wondering how their friends can afford the expensive trips and trends they’re sharing online.

Online shopping has seen significant gains since the start of quarantine in the U.S. Recent reports find that 40 percent of consumers have increased their online spending to some degree. Food is the most popular item bought online, and 31 percent of Americans say they’ve ordered takeout. Hygiene is the second most popular online purchase with 27 percent of Americans shopping disinfectants and other items online, followed by clothing at 26 percent. 

The feeling of needing to keep up with friends and perform on social media is at the core of many poor online spending decisions and can be detrimental to your financial health. A $30 concert ticket may not seem like much, but this builds a habit of overspending that can impact savings goals and unbalance your budget. 

We surveyed 1,500 people to learn more about social media spending and found:

  • 40 percent of Americans have made a purchase because of social media influence
  • A quarter of Americans have bought clothing or accessories, the most popular category, because of social media
  • Nearly 20 percent of Americans admit to judging others for sharing their purchases

40% of Americans Have Made a Purchase Influenced by Social Media

Bar graph displaying what products Americans are buying after seeing them on social media.

Our survey found that 40 percent of Americans admit to purchasing an item or experience after viewing something similar on social media. Clothing and accessories was the most popular category, with 24 percent of respondents sharing that they’ve shopped new looks on social media. 

This percentage drops significantly to just 12 percent buying beauty and health products — the second most popular category. Vacation experiences were the least influential category with just 5 percent of Americans planning a trip because of social media. 

Generation X (ages 35–44) is the most likely to purchase with social media influence. Forty-four percent of Gen X respondents say they’ve purchased something they saw online, with clothing and accessories keeping its popularity at 27 percent.

On the other hand, Baby Boomers (ages 65+) were the least likely to buy from social media at 31 percent, followed by Generation Z (ages 18–24) at 36 percent. Only 40 percent of Baby Boomers use social media, while 70+ percent of other age groups connect online. This is likely why fewer Baby Boomers shop with social media. 

Additionally, 46 percent of women have purchased something they saw on social media while only 34 percent of men had done the same. Both women and men prefer clothing, but men put more value in experienced-based purchases, like events and vacations, than women seem to. 

Clothing and Accessories Have the Most Influence

Clothing and accessories remained the top influencer across age and gender groups. Gen X women are the most interested in fashion with 38 percent buying clothing or accessories they saw shared on social media. Men were less interested in fashion than women, and Gen Z and Baby Boomers were the least interested with just 14 percent of men in each generation buying fashion trends from social media. 

The fashion industry has built a huge market around the ability to control messaging and increase accessibility through visual apps. A quick and easy example of this is the 847+ million posts under #fashion on Instagram. 

Even among fashion influencers, 42 percent shop directly through Instagram. The cycle of trending fashion grows as 86 percent of influencers purchase items they’ve seen other influencers wear, and are likely to then share the trend on their own account. 

Nearly 20% of Users Judge Others for Sharing Their Purchases Online

20% of users judge others for sharing their purchases, 64% wonder how their friends afford these purchases

While a large percentage of Americans admit to making purchases they see on social media, a fifth of respondents also admit to judging others for sharing their purchases online. Interestingly, younger generations were the most judgemental. Twenty-three percent of Gen Z users judged their peers’ purchases, while just 15 percent of those 55 and older judged others’ purchases. 

It seems men are the most likely to judge others for sharing what they buy. Twenty-seven percent of Gen Z men admit to judging others’ purchases, while just 19 percent of the youngest generation’s women do the same. 

Recent research suggests that there may be a direct tie between envy and conspicuous consumption on apps such as Instagram. Preliminary research suggests that many users believe others are posting their purchases to flaunt exclusivity, which builds envy and may support why so many users are quick to judge others. Those who reported high levels of envy were also more likely to consciously purchase items they had seen in an attempt to close the perceived wealth gap. 

Social media trends are here to stay, and marketers are taking advantage of the authenticity of influencer marketing. A third of Americans admit to spending more than they can afford to keep up with their friends, and social media envy plays a large part in this influence. The best way to stay financially secure is to commit to a budget. Apps like Mint can help you plan and stick to your larger savings goals and combat the habit to impulse buy.

View the Social Media Influences infographic

Sources: Charles Schwab | Intellifluence | HelpGuide | Harvard School of Public Health | Medium 

 

Methodology 

This study consisted of two survey questions conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,500 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey ran during August 2020. 

The post Under the Influence: 40% of Americans Have Purchased Something Seen on Social Media appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

The Penny Challenge Can Help You Save More Than $600 This Year

What difference can saving your pennies make? A lot, it turns out, if you’re doing the penny challenge. This money-saving challenge helps you put aside $667.95 in a year — or $671.61 in a leap year. To participate in the challenge, follow these steps: Now, please note: You’re not simply saving one penny a day. […]

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!)

The post How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

One question I see time and again is “How much should I spend on groceries for my family of four ?” — or three, five, etc.

When you’re making a household budget, it’s easy to know how much you need to include for most of your living expenses, like utilities, student loans, and even fuel. But when it comes to your average grocery bill, how much should you expect?

As much as I wish there were a simple answer, a family’s grocery budget will be different for every household. There’s no right or wrong number, but finding yours is key to keeping your grocery spending in check.

Here’s a guide to help you figure out how much you should spend on food each month.

Calculator and receipt in shopping cart for grocery budget

WHY YOU NEED A GROCERY BUDGET

It may sound like it should go without saying, but you need a food budget because it will force you to think about money when you’re grocery shopping. After all, your income is a certain amount, and that means you only have a certain amount of money you can spend on food for your family.

The other reason you need a frugal food budget is to make sure you don’t spend too much money for the food your family needs (and to save money by not buying food you don’t need). You become smarter about your spending and think twice before adding impulse purchases to your shopping cart.

HOW MUCH TO BUDGET FOR FOOD

It can be tough to figure out how much you *should* budget for food vs. what you’re currently spending on your meals. There is not a right or a wrong number, but you must find the right amount so you don’t overspend.

Here are some tricks you can try to help you figure out exactly how much to spend on food per month.

Budgeting Hack 1: Use the National Average

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average household spends about 6% of its income on groceries each month. However, the study also shows that the average American also spends 5% of his or her disposable income on dining out. That makes your food budget 11% of your overall income — a significant expense!

If you want to keep things simple and use the national average to calculate your monthly grocery budget, then plan on spending 6% for groceries and an additional 5% for dining out.

Here is an example: If your take-home pay is $3,000 a month, you will budget around $180 for groceries and $150 for dining out. Of course, if $180 won’t cover your needs, then you need to commit to a more thrifty plan: Scale back on eating out and use any additional money toward your grocery needs.

Budgeting Hack 2: Use Your Actual Spending

A more realistic way to figure out how much to budget for groceries is to look at your current grocery spending. An easy way to do this is by completing a spending form.

Here’s how it works. Review all your purchases over several pay periods. You should include food spending, fuel, dining out, entertainment — everything. Having all the numbers in front of you will help you calculate the average of how much you’re spending on groceries (and all your other budget categories!) every week.

If you think your expenses for food add up to too much money, you can try to reduce your spending. Just keep in mind that your family will have to adjust the way you eat.

Budgeting Hack 3: Use a Grocery Calculator

Sometimes, you want to get specific help when figuring out how much to budget for food. There is a simple to use, online grocery budget calculator; you can use it for free.

Fill out the information for all of your family members, then hit calculate. It will return an average you should plan on budgeting for your family.

I ran this report for my family, and the result said we should plan on $219.35 for an average grocery budget for our family of five. That is more than we spend. On average, I spend $125 – $150 per week on everything our family needs.

While using a budget calculator can be helpful, it might end up doing the same thing for you: Suggest an amount that is higher than what you know you spend — or is higher than what you can afford. Use this calculator as a guide, but not the only factor when determining your budget.

Budgeting Hack 4: Look at the U.S. Average

Another way to reach a grocery budget amount is to look at the plans created by the USDA. The most recent plans are on their website. They provide the weekly cost for a thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal plan on a weekly and monthly basis. The amounts are broken down by gender and age. You will need to total the numbers listed for the people in your family.

For example, the average grocery budget for a family of four is about $871, per this report. The amounts will be lower, of course for a family of three or higher if you need to budget for a family of five.

Once again, these numbers should be a guide. Once you start grocery shopping for your family, you may find that you spend much less – or even more – than what the average family spends on groceries.

Don’t Forget Special Dietary Needs

If you have a family member who cannot eat gluten or who has other dietary restrictions, these can affect your budget. Make sure you keep these foods in mind when developing your budget as they can cost much more than average foods or require trips to a specialty grocery store.

TRICKS TO MAKING A MONTHLY FOOD BUDGET

There is no magic formula or grocery budget app that will pull the numbers together for you. The key is to make sure that you put forth the effort in the right manner to make it work for you. Keep the following in mind when figuring your monthly food budget:

1. Consider Your Current Spending

Before you can make any changes, you have to know where you are starting. That way, you can see what you currently spend on your groceries so you can start cutting back.

Need help figuring our your average grocery bill?

You can use the Spending Worksheet and go back to find your spending on food over the past 8 weeks. Look at every transaction in your bank statement and total it. Then, divide that amount by two. You know have an average your family spends on food every month.

The next step is going to be finding a way to not only spend that amount going forward but try to find ways to spend even less if you can.

2. Put It in Writing

The next things you need to when creating your budget for food is to put it in writing. Once written down, you are more willing to commit to the process. Make sure your spouse or partner is also on board so you can work together to ensure you don’t overspend.

3. Start Using Cash

If you really want to stick to a tight budget, you need to use cash. Each payday, get cash from your bank for the amount you’ll need at the grocery store. That is all you have to spend until the next payday. No cheating! That means you can’t whip out your debit card if you run out of money.

You’ll quickly learn better ways to be smart and strategic when figuring your budget and sticking to it. (Read more about how to start using a cash envelope budget ).

4. Commit to Using Your Budget

You can have the greatest intent to use a budget, but if you aren’t ready to do so, it will never work. It is just like dieting. You may know you want to shed pounds, but if you are not willing to put in the effort, the weight will never come off.

Once you know the amount you have to spend at the grocery store, you need to stick to it (this is another reason to use cash). You have to make the conscious decision that you want to budget and then do all you can to make it work.

Your spouse or partner needs to be on board, too. It will never work if one of you is committed to making your grocery budget work and the other is not. Have a long heart to heart talk and make sure you are on the same page.

Read more: How to talk to your spouse about money

GROCERY SHOPPING ON A BUDGET

If you’ve tried all these ideas and still need to save money on groceries, here are some simple tricks you can try.

Reduce Your Dining Out Budget

Stop eating as many restaurant meals. That’s an easy way to find money to add to your grocery shopping budget, especially if this means you’re cutting back on alcohol spending at restaurants.

Use Coupons

While they are not for everyone, coupons are the simplest way to save money on the items you need. Even if coupons aren’t available for the grocery items you need, you can find them for household products you use, like toilet paper and laundry detergent, thereby reducing your spending and increasing the money you can spend on the foods you want.

Stick to Your List

Never shop without a list and only purchase the items on your list. Put in writing or use a grocery list app and don’t be tempted to add extra items to the cart.

Make a Meal Plan

Create a meal plan before you grocery shop. That way, you have a plan for the week not only to know what you will eat but also to make sure the ingredients will be on hand when it’s time for meal prep (reducing those frequent drive-thru meals). Meal planning saves you time, money, and the stress of figuring out “Mom, what’s for dinner?” without resorting to frozen pizza.

Keep a Price Book

Start watching the sales cycles at your grocery store and you’ll learn when it is time to stock up on your pantry staples, so you always pay the lowest price. Keep track of the prices in a price book for every item your family needs. (Bonus: When you get good at identifying your store’s food cost cycles, you can plan a meal or two around the fresh foods on sale in any given week.)

Add a Meatless Meal

One item that can quickly increase your grocery bill is meat. Try having a meal without meat every week (like Meatless Mondays), and you’ll find that you spend less.

Vegetables are cheaper than meat and can be just as filling. Having vegetables for your main course at dinner is not only healthy but can also help with saving money. Try loaded sweet potatoes, pasta with veggie sauce, or cheese and vegetable pizza for a delicious meal.

If veggies are a hard sell for your family, try fruit salads or breakfast for dinner — pancakes and French toast are cheap and fast!

Buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are in-season can help you save even more on your monthly grocery bill. And frozen vegetables and fruit are often cheaper (and tastier) than “fresh” produce that’s not in-season.

  • Pro tip: When you’re buying meat, remember that cuts like chicken thighs are often significantly cheaper than chicken breasts, and they have more flavor. Get more tips on saving money on meat, produce, and dairy products.

There’s an App for That

There are many grocery savings apps that can help you keep tabs on food prices and create a smarter shopping list. What is great about an app is that you always have it with you on your phone, so no worry that you left a coupon at home or in your car.

Steer Clear of Mistakes at the Grocery Store

When you grocery shop, there are temptations around every corner (and I don’t just mean the ice cream and chocolate chip cookies). There are sales on the end caps, fancy signs and different tricks stores use to make you spend more money. Learn about the ways grocery stores get you to spend more money so you can avoid them.

Avoid Haste and Waste

One of the biggest ways people waste money when it comes to food is through waste. People often buy food that goes bad before they get around to eating it.

You might also waste money buying convenience foods. (That frozen meal might seem like a deal when you’re running low on time, but you’ll save more if you prepare big batches of homemade, healthy food and freeze some leftover portions for later.)

These are two ways you are killing your grocery budget. Study your habits and find ways to make changes so you aren’t wasting money on food.

  • Pro tip: One convenience food I occasionally give into is a rotisserie chicken. It’s ready to eat when I get home from the store, and you can use it in a few other meals during the week.

NOW GO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR GROCERIES!

Take the time to create a grocery budget that is both frugal and feasible for your family. Don’t try to make the dollar amount so low that it is unrealistic, or it will fail month after month. But if you pay attention while you’re shopping and keep an eye on how long the food lasts your family, you’ll soon discover that having a realistic grocery budget is the tastiest way to save money!

The post How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

7 Budget Friendly Tips for a Room Makeover

Sometimes the need to redecorate a room doesn’t line up with when the budget allows for a full makeover. In those times, it’s good to have a few budget friendly ideas to spruce up the space. These seven tips are things that can be done even when funds are tight.

1 – Rearrange or Swap with Other Rooms

The most budget friendly thing you can do when redecorating is to look for inspiration from the other rooms in your home. Often times, especially in larger homes, there are pieces of furniture and other décor that could be moved from one room to another to make a free update to the space. If you are thinking about updating your master bedroom, consider using pieces from your office, the living room, and even the outside patio. Taking a piece from another room can provide just the change you are craving in the space you want to update.

2 – Paint Furniture

If you found a piece of furniture in another room that can work based on the shape and size, but it doesn’t quite match, consider painting the furniture. This is also a great option for updating old wood furniture that you’ve had in the room for years, or even furniture that you just found at a thrift store or rummage sale. Changing the color of furniture with spray paint is a quick and easy way to give it an entirely new look in less than a day’s time.

When determining if a piece of furniture can be painted, look for pieces that have good structure and very few flaws to the shape. When you paint, gouges and scratches can become more pronounced, so if you find a few imperfections, fill them with wood filler and sand them smooth before painting. If you are painting metal furniture, make sure to sand off any rust spots to ensure the rust doesn’t spread after you complete the makeover.

3 – Paint the Walls

If you want to make a bigger impact in a space, consider investing in a can or two of paint. Many rooms can be completed with one can of paint, but for more drastic color changes (like from white walls to dark blue walls or vise versa), you may need two cans to allow for multiple coats to get the walls fully covered.

If you don’t want to paint the entire room, consider painting an accent wall to give it a pop of color. If you have more time than funds, you can invest a few hours, a quart of paint, and a roll of painters tape into making a design on a wall instead. You might add a single stripe, a chevron stripe, or some free-hand circles around the room. You can get creative with the accent designs to make the room as fun as you want it to be.


4 – Have a Plan

One of the biggest things you can do to keep a makeover project budget friendly is to have a plan and a little patience. Think about it like this: if your car dies and you need a new car, you are at the mercy of the people who are selling cars at that exact time. If you are able to plan ahead on the purchase of your new car, you have significantly more bargaining power because you don’t NEED to purchase it immediately. You can wait for a better price to come along.

The exact same thing is true when it comes to purchases for your home. If you are determined to buy things on a certain day, you are at the mercy of what’s available on that exact day in the shops you can get to. If you’re able to instead plan the project, decide what you are going to look for, and then purchase when you find the items at the right price, you are in a much better position to find bargain pieces.

5 – Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Once you have your budget makeover plan in place, keep your eyes open for the perfect pieces everywhere you possibly can. Tour your neighborhood on the weekends to see if any of the neighbors are selling the perfect pieces on rummage sales. Search Craigslist and online rummage sale sites to catch when the items you need pop up for sale. Walk through thrift stores on a weekly basis and keep your eyes peeled for the perfect used items. And don’t forget to watch the clearance racks at your favorite stores to see what goes on super sale. I personally love walking through Target on the days they mark down their home décor items. It feels like a treasure hunt to find just the right throw pillows or wall art to fit my plan. When the items are on clearance, it’s an even bigger success knowing that I didn’t spend even close to full price on the perfect pieces.

6 – Change Light Fixtures

If you are handy, or you have a friend who is familiar with electrical wiring, you may want to consider changing out the light fixtures in your home to quickly update the space. Having light fixtures that are decades old often means that they are in an outdated style or finish, which can make the entire space look out of date. By swapping them out with an eye catching light fixture that you found on sale or at a thrift store, you can make a big impact change in that one item. One of my favorite stores to check for items like light fixtures is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Many cities and towns that have a Habitat for Humanity program also have a Restore where they sell good quality home fixtures that have been removed from homes that were remodeled. It is a store where one man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure.

7 – Change Flooring

The final tip is definitely more hands-on, but can make a large impact in a room if you have just a little bit more money to spend and a weekend’s worth of time. Changing the flooring in a room can create a big change for not as much money as you are probably imagining.

Laminate flooring has come a long way in the last 5 years, and you can now buy a variety of great looking laminate flooring for less than $1/square foot. This lightweight, easy to install flooring can be printed with images of wood, stone, or other designs to give your room a totally new feel. Considering most bedrooms in homes are close to 12’ x 12’, that means you could change the flooring in a room for under $150.

If that is outside your budget, you still have options. Consider getting a large area rug to anchor the room. These are typically available at stores like Ross and Home Goods for $50 or less. Not only can they add a pop of color to your floor, but you can move them into new rooms if you ever feel like rearranging in the future.

Having a strict budget shouldn’t keep you from having a space that you love. For under $200 there are a number of quick changes you can make to your home. Mix and match a few ideas and you’ll be surprised at how quickly a little time and a few dollars can change the feel of your home.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending in Your Budget

With so many of us dealing with the coronavirus pandemic (plus the financial fallout from it) and spending more time at home this year, there’s a very good chance your family budget looks different. Our own budget had some big adjustments (transportation costs went down to basically nothing) along with some minor changes (buying supplies and items around the house for projects).

Our money dates have had us reevaluate some things and redirect money to other expenses and savings. Besides making sure that you’re taking care of essential expenses and building up your financial cushion, you want to want to make sure you include another key area in your budget – some guilt-free spending in there as well.

Why Budgets Need to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending

First off what exactly is guilt-free spending? And why should families include it when planning out their budget. Basically, it covers the expenses that you enjoy. Every family has different ways they use that money. It could be travel, eating out together, adding another pair of shoes to your collection, or gadgets. With families having to deal with so many decisions and challenges, there has been an increasing awareness of having proper self-care as part of the routine. Families are now including that in their budgets.

The key part of keeping these expenses guilt-free is that they bring you joy without breaking the bank. These aren’t frivolous spending sprees. They can be meaningful purchases such as supplies for a hobby like painting that enriches your life. Second, these expenses are planned ahead of time and baked into your budget so you’re not taking on debt or upsetting your family’s cash flow.

Why Budgets Typically Fail

One of the reasons why I think having some fun money in your budget is a wise move is because it’ll help make your budget more sustainable. How? If I asked you what the point of a budget is, what would you say? Most tell me it’s to keep their spending in check.

It makes sense to believe that because for most families that’s what it’s about – restrictions. However, the best budgets I’ve seen are geared towards the direction of the money. I’ve interviewed families who have retired early or have knocked out a ton of debt and something they had in common was that their budgets reflected their priorities and circumstances.

Before they put pen to paper (or tap the app), they sat down and defined what goals they wanted to achieve. If you had to break down a budget the three key areas are basically:

  1. Paying your essential bills.
  2. Building long term financial stability.
  3. Have the money you can use now to enjoy.

Many times, the disagreements, arguments, and sometimes sabotage with budgets come from friction on finding a balance between spending money with long term stability and enjoying now. If you skew too much to saving up for the future, one or more of you in the family could start getting resentful. Financial infidelity or set back with keeping the budget can occur for many reasons, but some spouses say one reason is there’s absolutely no wiggle room in the budget for fun. If you’re only focused on the now when something comes up – hello 2020! – you’re left without a safety net.

For families with kids, that’s an additional source of stress they don’t need. I noticed that the families who hit their goals had found a way to balance things. They save towards their long term goals as well as set aside money to enjoy now. How? By redoing how they approached their budgets.

Easy Budget Framework to Use

Let’s go back to those three key goals of any budget – taking care of essentials, saving for the future, and spending on the present. Families looking to include all of these goals need a budget that can weave them together. If you’re just starting out with a budget and are still trying to figure out a framework, an easy foundational budget is the 50/20/30 budget. It divides up your money into those three key goals, with 50% going to necessary expenses, 20% towards financial stability and wealth, and 30% towards discretionary or fun money.

Feel free to adjust the percentages based on your circumstances, but for many families that three-bucket approach is easy enough to set up and it gives them enough wiggle room where there can enjoy some of their money now. Once you’ve created that budget, you can then take the next step – automating your money. We’ve done this for over a decade and it has been incredibly helpful. We have our bills automated every paycheck plus our savings and investments are scheduled monthly. With those necessary things taken care of first, we know whatever spending we do won’t harm our expenses.

Staying on Top of Your and Budget – The Easy Way

Now that you have a budget and you’re including some guilt-free spending, how do you make sure you’re staying on track? There are some wonderful options out there including money apps like Mint. You can stay on top of your money without losing your mind because the apps can pull that data from your accounts and give you an easy and clear way to see where your money is going. You can also use Mint to track your goals like paying down debt or saving up for a house. With that information in front of you can quickly and easily see how you’re doing anytime.

Another handy tool with Mint is how simple it is to set up alerts on certain spending. So if you have set aside $200 for your ‘fun’ account, Mint can notify you when your spending is getting close to your limit. It’s a more proactive and real-time way to manage your money without having to worry about every single penny.

Your Take on Budgets

As you can see, with a little planning you can be financially savvy and enjoy some fun now. I’d love to get your thoughts – how do you approach your budget? What are some must-have expenses in yours?

The post How to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending in Your Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave

Prepping for a new baby’s arrival might kick your nesting instinct into high gear, as you make sure everything is just right before the big day. One thing to add to your new-baby to-do list is figuring out how to financially prepare for maternity leave if you’ll be taking time away from work.

Lauren Mochizuki, a nurse and budgeting expert at personal finance blog Casa Mochi, took time off from work for the births of both her children. Because she had only partial paid leave each time, she says a budget was critical in making sure money wasn’t a source of stress.

“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time,” Mochizuki says.

But the question “How do I budget for maternity leave?” is a big one. One thing’s for sure—the answer will be different for everyone, since not everyone’s leave or financial situation is the same. What matters most is taking action early to get a grip on your finances while there’s still time to plan.

Before you get caught up in the new-baby glow, here’s what you need to do to financially prepare for maternity leave:

1. Estimate how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last

To financially prepare for maternity leave, you need to know how long you plan to be away from work without pay.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave from work per year for certain family and medical reasons, including for the birth of a child. Some employers may also offer a period of paid leave for new parents.

The amount of unpaid maternity leave you take will determine the budget you’ll need while you’re away.

When estimating how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last, Mochizuki says to consider how much unpaid leave you plan to take based on your personal needs and budget. For example, you could find you’re not able to take the full period offered by FMLA after reviewing your expenses (more on that below) and how much you have in savings.

Even if your employer does offer paid maternity leave, you may decide to extend your time at home by supplementing your paid leave with unpaid time off, Mochizuki says.

Keep in mind that despite all of your budgeting for maternity leave, your health and the health of your baby may also influence how much unpaid time off you take and how long your maternity leave budget needs to stretch.

As you’re financially preparing for maternity leave, make sure your spouse or partner is also considering what benefits may be available to them through their employer. Together you should know what benefits are available for maternity or paternity leave, either paid or unpaid, and how to apply for them as you jointly navigate the budgeting for maternity leave process. You can then decide how to coordinate the amount of time each of you should take and when that leave should begin.

Contact your HR department to learn about your company’s maternity leave policy, how to apply for leave and whether there are any conditions you need to meet to qualify for leave. Ask if you’re able to leverage sick days, vacation days or short-term disability for paid maternity leave.

2. Babyproof your budget

When budgeting for maternity leave, make sure you review your current monthly budget to assess how budgeting for a new baby fits in.

In Mochizuki’s case, she and her husband added a category to save for maternity leave within their existing budget for household expenses (e.g., mortgage, utilities, groceries).

“We treated it as another emergency fund, meaning we had a goal of how much we wanted to save and we kept working and saving until we reached that goal,” Mochizuki says.

Figure out what new expenses might be added to your budget and which existing ones might reduce to financially prepare for maternity leave.

As you financially prepare for maternity leave, consider the following questions:

  • What new expenses need to be added to your budget? Diapers, for instance, can cost a family around $900 per year, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. You may also be spending money on formula, bottles, wipes, clothes and toys for your new one, all of which can increase your monthly budget. And don’t forget the cost of any new products or items that mom will need along the way. Running the numbers with a first-year baby costs calculator can help you accurately estimate your new expenses and help with financial planning for new parents.
  • Will any of your current spending be reduced while you’re on leave? As you think about the new expenses you’ll need to add when budgeting for maternity leave, don’t forget the ones you may be able to nix. For example, your budget may dip when it comes to commuting costs if you’re not driving or using public transit to get to work every day. If you have room in your budget for meals out or entertainment expenses, those may naturally be cut if you’re eating at home more often and taking it easy with the little one.

3. Tighten up the budget—then tighten some more

Once you’ve evaluated your budget, consider whether you can streamline it further as you financially prepare for maternity leave. This can help ease any loss of income associated with taking time off or counter the new expenses you’ve added to your maternity leave budget.

Becky Beach, founder of Mom Beach, a personal finance blog for moms, says that to make her maternity leave budget work—which included three months of unpaid leave—she and her husband got serious about reducing unnecessary expenses.

Find ways to reduce costs on bills like insurance and groceries to help save for maternity leave.

Cut existing costs

As you budget for maternity leave, go through your existing budget by each spending category.

“The best tip is to cut costs on things you don’t need, like subscriptions, movie streaming services, new clothes, eating out, date nights, etc.,” Beach says. “That money should be earmarked for your new baby’s food, clothes and diapers.”

Cutting out those discretionary “wants” is an obvious choice, but look more closely at other ways you could save. For example, could you negotiate a better deal on your car insurance or homeowner’s insurance? Can you better plan and prep for meals to save money on food costs? How about reducing your internet service package or refinancing your debt?

Find ways to earn

Something else to consider as you budget for maternity leave is how you could add income back into your budget if all or part of your leave is unpaid and you want to try and close some of the income gap. For example, before your maternity leave starts, you could turn selling unwanted household items into a side hustle you can do while working full time to bring in some extra cash and declutter before baby arrives.

Reduce new costs

As you save for maternity leave, also think about how you could reduce expenses associated with welcoming a new baby. Rather than buying brand-new furniture or clothing, for example, you could buy those things gently used from consignment shops, friends or relatives and online marketplaces. If someone is planning to throw a baby shower on your behalf, you could create a specific wish list of items you’d prefer to receive as gifts in order to offset costs.

4. Set a savings goal and give every dollar a purpose

When Beach and her husband saved for maternity leave, they set out to save $20,000 prior to their baby’s birth. They cut their spending, used coupons and lived frugally to make it happen.

In Beach’s case, they chose $20,000 since that’s what she would have earned over her three-month maternity leave, had she been working. You might use a similar guideline to choose a savings goal. If you’re receiving paid leave, you may strive to save enough to cover your new expenses.

Setting a savings goal and tracking expenses before the new baby arrives is an easy way to save for maternity leave.

As you make your plan to save for maternity leave, make sure to account for your loss of income and the new expenses in your maternity leave budget. Don’t forget to factor in any savings you already have set aside and plan to use to help you financially prepare for maternity leave.

Once you’ve come up with your savings target, consider dividing your maternity savings into different buckets, or categories, to help ensure the funds last as long as you need them to. This could also make it harder to overspend in any one category.

For instance, when saving for maternity leave, you may leverage buckets like:

  • Planned baby expenses
  • Unexpected baby costs or emergencies
  • Mother and baby healthcare

“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time.”

– Lauren Mochizuki, budgeting expert at Casa Mochi

Budgeting for maternity leave—and beyond

Once maternity leave ends, your budget will evolve again as your income changes and new baby-related expenses are introduced. As you prepare to go back to work, review your budget again and factor in any new costs. For example, in-home childcare or daycare may be something you have to account for, along with ongoing healthcare costs for new-baby checkups.

Then, schedule a regular date going forward to review your budget and expenses as your baby grows. You can do this once at the beginning or end of the month or every payday. Take a look at your income and expenses to see what has increased or decreased and what adjustments, if any, you need to make to keep your budget running smoothly.

Budgeting for maternity leave takes a little time and planning, but it’s well worth the effort. Knowing that your finances are in order lets you relax and enjoy making memories—instead of stressing over money.

The post What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

7 Side Hustles That Helped Us Make It Through 2020

We’re almost there, folks. Only three more years until the end of 2020. At least it feels that way. The pandemic upended many areas of the economy, forcing millions of people out of work and into a scramble to fill the income void. We’re looking back at the side hustles that helped many of us […]

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

6 Reasons Why Your Budget Doesn’t Work (And How To Fix It)

The post 6 Reasons Why Your Budget Doesn’t Work (And How To Fix It) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

If you are not using a written budget (paper, spreadsheet or even an app), you are not alone.  According to a 2016 study, only 41% of Americans have a written budget.  That means more than 50% of American households are operating without a budget!!

 

how to make a budget work

Just because you have a budget does not mean you will be successful.  Following a budget is not easy. If it were, we would see more people using one than trying to ignore it altogether.

Even the most diligent people can have a tough time getting used to, and implementing, spending constraints within a budget. This can cause those budgets to bust and quite often fail.

Why does this happen? Why is it that so many budgets never work?  We’ve got six of the most common reasons budgets do not work.

WHY YOUR BUDGET IS NOT WORKING (AND HOW TO FIX IT)

1. Your budget is unrealistic

Who wouldn’t love to spend just $50 a month on fuel and $200 on groceries?  That would be incredible, wouldn’t it?  However, that is not the way it works.  You need to be completely honest about the numbers you include in your budget.

The fix:  One of the easiest ways to do this is by creating and reviewing a spending plan.This simple form will help you analyze and track your real life spending over the course of a month.  You might want to see that your budget shows $200 for groceries.  But, if you are spending $550, your budget will not work. Be honest and make sure your budget truly reflects the way you shop.

Read More: How to Create a Spending Plan

 

2. Forgetting items

When planning out a budget, did you remember that you have that birthday next week?  What about needing to purchase new tires for your vehicle?  You need to make sure that you are accounting for every expense which might come up over the course of the month.

The fix: Take time at the end of each month to look ahead and determine events and things coming up, such as the vacation or the birthday.  Make adjustments to the next month’s budget (but if you are really smart, you are already saving for these monthly, and the payments can come from your savings account rather than your budget).

 

3. You keep overspending

Another reason your budget doesn’t work is that you spend more than you make.   You have to make changes to your budget.

The issue is that many do not want to do this.  They just can’t.  If you are spending more than you make, your budget will never work.  You must change your spending habits to have a successful budget.

The fix: You may need to scale back on dining out or entertainment. It could be extreme enough that you need to cut expenses, such as cable, directly from your budget.

Read More:  How to Prevent Overspending

 

4. Not monitoring it

A budget is not a “one and done” financial goal.  A budget is always changing to due to income fluctuations, life events and more. Your budget will need to be frequently checked to make sure it aligns with your needs.

The fix:  Update your budget monthly, by scheduling a due date on your calendar.  There are times when adjustments will not be needed, but other times, you will need to tweak it.  You might find that you are budgeting $500 for groceries, but costs have gone up, and so now you spend $575.  That means you have to fix the budget to stay in line with what you need.

Read More:  How to Create and Use a Cash Budget

 

5. Forgetting emergencies

Life has a funny way of throwing curveballs your way when you least expect it.  What happens if the furnace goes out or your son breaks his arm?  These items are not on your budget, and there was no way to plan for them.

The fix:  You need must have an emergency fund.  Money needs to be set aside each month to cover these expenses which come up.  That means you need to add it as a line item on your budget and always save so you don’t blow your budget in these moments.

Read More:  How to Quickly Boost Your Emergency Fund

6. Not giving it enough time

Another reason your budget does not work is that you quit before it has a chance to work.

If all professional athletes quit practicing after just one month, we would have no professional sports.  The same is true with your budget.  If you give up when it gets hard or don’t try, then you are destined to fail.

The fix:  Keep in mind that the first 3 – 4 months are going to be rough.  These are the months when you are going to have to make a lot of changes to the budget so that it will work for you.  Once you get through this period, it will get easier, and you will be glad you did not quit or give up.

 

A budget is not fun. If it were everyone would have one, and it would work perfectly. No one would fail.  However, that is not reality.  It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but when you stick to it, the rewards will be worth it.

budget doesn't work

The post 6 Reasons Why Your Budget Doesn’t Work (And How To Fix It) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com