3 Financial Self-Care Habits You Can Start Today

If you’re someone who struggles with financial anxiety and stress, practicing a financial self-care routine could help. Just like other areas of your life, the more consistent you are about financial self-care, the better. This is why I am emphasizing the idea of building habits. The reality is that anxiety and stress are life’s constants. We ourselves don’t have the luxury of removing those factors from our environment, but what we do have are tools to help manage and reduce them. 

Before I get into it, I want to note that there’s a pretty extensive list of financial-self care options available, but what I’ve realized is that when we are struggling, we often overcommit ourselves to perfectionism instead of trying to be a little less imperfect. I’m the first to admit that it’s really tough not to go all-in when reading advice that sounds life-changing. Often, we find ourselves trying out anything and everything to feel in control, and it is for this reason that I won’t offer you the extensive list today. Instead, I hope to help you focus on taking things slow for once so that you don’t set yourself up for failure (and ultimately right back in the anxiety-ridden state you first found yourself in). You can view these three foundational habits as a starting point for a long-term financial self-care routine that you will work to enhance over the course of your life. With this in mind, let’s dive in.

HABIT # 1: REVIEW & CATEGORIZE YOUR TRANSACTIONS DAILY

Building awareness of what and how much you’ve spent can be a game-changer. This habit not only takes the dreaded guessing game out of your end-of-month leftover income and total spending, but it can help you course-correct throughout the month to ensure you hit budgeting goals, cut back in areas you may find yourself regretting, or even upping your spend in areas that bring you joy. A few added bonuses of this habit include saving time at the end of the month if you’re someone that typically sits down for 4-5 hours to get yourself organized, in addition to helping you catch fraudulent transactions faster! 

Pro tips for building this habit: 

  • Make it easy: If you don’t already use Mint, download the app today to have all of your transactions organized and easily viewable in one place. 
  • Make it obvious: Set a calendar reminder on your phone to check Mint each day at the same time. I’d recommend early morning before your day gets busy.
  • Make it attractive: Check your spending after a ritual or habit you enjoy doing. For example, after you sit down to drink your coffee, open up Mint to review your transactions.    
  • Make it satisfying: After reviewing your transactions, do something rewarding. For example, after categorizing and reviewing, consider checking it off your to-do list for the day to feel progress.

HABIT # 2: CHECK YOUR SAVINGS ACCOUNT(S) DAILY

Checking your savings accounts is a great way to flood your brain with positivity about your financial situation. Having savings is a rewarding feeling, and even more rewarding, is seeing your savings progress over time. Getting in this habit will also be a good reminder to actively save for each of your financial goals. 

Pro tips for building this habit: 

  • Make it easy: Connect your savings accounts to Mint and use the goal-setting feature that allows you to customize your savings goals and connect your savings account to easily track your progress. 
  • Make it obvious: Consider setting your phone’s background to a photo of something you’re saving for so that everytime you check your phone, you’ll be reminded of saving. Mint also allows you to add photos of your goals in the web version and in the app. 
  • Make it attractive: In addition to checking your savings right after reviewing your transactions in Mint, consider starting a savings group with your friends and family. No need to talk about how much you’ve saved, but you can talk about your goals and turn to the group for motivation when you’re tempted to spend what you would normally save. 
  • Make it satisfying: Make sure to give yourself credit for doing this habit by also crossing it off as a separate to-do list item. Try to also make it a rule to never miss checking your savings twice in a row. Skipping a day here and there because life gets in the way is totally normal, just make sure to commit yourself to doing it the next day. 

HABIT # 3: REWARD YOURSELF 1X PER WEEK

I saved the best for last. Rewarding yourself is a critical step that most skip when trying to become more disciplined. Self-control can be a draining experience, especially at first. Make sure to set aside “free time” each week to do something for yourself. It doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to require a lot of money. Think of it as a way of telling yourself good job for working hard and trying to improve. 

Pro tips for building this habit*: 

  • Make it easy: Consider making your reward something that takes less than 2 minutes to start doing. Perhaps it’s turning on a Netflix show, making an easy dessert, grabbing a coffee at the Starbucks you just walked by, or even dancing in your living room to your favorite song. 
  • Make it obvious: As I write this, it sounds weird, but for some of us, setting aside time for ourselves isn’t something we’re good at, so commit yourself to a consistent day and time that’s for you to do what you want.

*Making it attractive and satisfying isn’t necessary here because the reward in and of itself will reinforce the habit. 

 

With that, you now have 3 habits to start building a financial self-care routine. Give this a shot, and let me know how it goes in the comments below. 

The post 3 Financial Self-Care Habits You Can Start Today appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

I Thought I Was Too Good For Community College

4 reasons you should go to community college firstWhether you are about to head to college (no matter what your age may be), if you have a child who is about to attend college, or if you know someone who is about to experience this, then this article is for you.

When I was around 17, I applied to several different colleges, but one mistake I made was that I didn’t even give community college a thought.

Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to going to community college, like thinking it is for those that can’t get into a “regular” college, for those that don’t have enough money, or for those that have no other options. When, in fact, these are all far from the truth.

And, sadly, I bought into these myths and thought I was too good for community college. If you want to save money in college, community college is a great way to do that.

The stigma about going to community college is absolutely ridiculous.

And, I was a young kid, so, of course, I let other people’s opinions get to me. And, I thought everyone was right!

It isn’t just kids that believe those myths about community college, as even adults (parents or returning learners) buy into those myths.

Well, that is a big mistake!

For many people, community college should be their first choice.

College costs are increasing, and they’re not going to stop anytime soon.

According to College Board, the average yearly tuition and fees for a:

  • Private four-year college is $32,410.
  • Public four-year college for out-of-state students is $23,890.
  • Public four-year college for in-state students is $9,410.

Community college, on the other hand, is just $3,440.

Those tuition differences are huge, and just look at how much you could save if you did only your first year at community college!

For many people, going to college means taking out loans, and according to a student survey done by Nerdwallet, 48% of undergrad borrowers said they could have borrowed less and still have afforded their educations. And, 27% regretted going to a school that required them to take out loans to afford their tuition.

I know this regret personally.

I only spent one summer semester taking classes at community college, where I earned 12 credits, and I still regret not taking more. I probably could have saved over $20,000 by taking more classes at my local community college.

Yes, I could have saved that much money!

Whether you are in college already or if you haven’t started yet, taking classes at a community college can be a great way to save money.

Today, I want to talk about common myths I hear about community college, so that I can persuade more people to give it a shot. It can save you so much money, and is a great option for a lot of people.

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Here are common myths about attending community college:

 

But, all of my credits won’t transfer.

This is the top reason (and myth) I hear for not attending community college.

If you take the correct steps, the credits you earn at a community college will transfer.

If you decide to go to a community college first, always make sure that the 4-year college you plan on attending afterwards will accept all of your credits. It’s an easy step to take, so do not forget to look into this! You should take this step before you sign up and pay for any classes at the community college so that you are not wasting your time.

My four-year university made it easy and had a printed list of what transferred from the local community college – it’s seriously that easy! I’m sure many universities do this as well.

When I took classes for college credit in high school and at the community college, I made sure that all of the classes transferred to the university in which I was getting my degree from.

I have heard too many stories about people not checking this ahead of time and wasting years by taking classes that didn’t transfer, which means you are wasting time and money.

Make sure you get it in writing and talk to your college counselor as well about this. They can help you determine which ones will transfer and provide you proof of transferability.

Also, know that by accepting transfer credits, your four-year university is basically saying “these community college credits mean the same thing here.”

 

Community college won’t actually save me that much money.

I want to repeat, the average yearly tuition and fees for a:

  • Private four-year college is $32,410.
  • Public four-year college for out-of-state students is $23,890.
  • Public four-year college for in-state students is $9,410.

And, community college is $3,440.

As you can see, college tuition is a significant amount of money, and it is a drastic difference between four-year institutions and community college.

Now, the problem here is that many people “afford” college by taking out student loans, so the amount of money you are paying for college isn’t an immediate thing that you “feel” – because it’s all debt!

Note: If you are a parent and you are thinking about taking on debt to put your child through school, please, please, please consider having them attend community college first. Please, also read Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?

 

The classes won’t be as good.

I’ve heard this community college myth over and over again. Many people think that the classes won’t be “good enough” for them. That is usually far from the case, though. Your first two years, no matter where you go, are most likely going to consist of very generic classes or classes that are similar, if not the same, as ones at the four-year college you are thinking about attending.

It’s usually not until the last two years, after you get those beginner classes and electives out of the way, that your classes really begin to matter for your degree.

And, if you’re afraid you really need more of those beginner classes from a four-year college, I recommend at least taking a summer semester or two at your community college for elective classes. There are usually lots of elective options at community college, and you can at least take those at a more affordable rate. That is exactly what I did – one summer while I was attending my four-year college, I enrolled at the community college for a bunch of electives. I was able to easily, and affordably, knock out a bunch of electives.

 

My degree will be worth less coming from a community college.

When you graduate with a four-year degree, the school name on your diploma will be the name of the college you graduated from. It won’t say, “graduated from here but took some classes at community college.” This is because your community college credits transferred (if you followed the step above).

So, no worries here.

Nowhere on my college degree does it say that I took some classes at the community college.

Did you attend community college? Why or why not?

The post I Thought I Was Too Good For Community College appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Should I Cash Out My 401k to Pay Off Debt?

Paying off debt may feel like a never-ending process. With so many potential solutions, you may not know where to start. One of your options may be withdrawing money from your retirement fund. This may make you wonder, “should I cash out my 401k to pay off debt?” Cashing out your 401k early may cost you in penalties, taxes, and your financial future so it’s usually wise to avoid doing this if possible. When in doubt, consult your financial advisor to help determine what’s best for you.

Before cashing out your 401k, we suggest weighing the pros and cons, plus the financial habits you could change to reduce debt. The right move may be adjusting your budget to ensure each dollar is being put to good use. Keep reading to determine if and when it makes sense to cash out your 401k.

How to Determine If You Want to Cash Out Your Retirement

How to Determine If You Want to Cash Out Your Retirement

Deciding to cash out your 401k depends on your financial position. If debt is causing daily stress, you may consider serious debt payoff plans. Early withdrawal from your 401k could cost you in

Deciding to cash out your 401k depends on your financial position. If debt is causing daily stress, you may consider serious debt payoff plans. Early withdrawal from your 401k could cost you in taxes and fees as your 401k has yet to be taxed. Meaning, the gross amount you withdraw from your 401k will be taxed in full, so assess your financial situation before making a decision.

Check Your Eligibility

Depending on your 401k account, you may not be able to withdraw money without a valid reason. Hefty medical bills and outstanding debts may be valuable reasons, but going on a shopping spree isn’t. Below are a few requirements to consider for an early withdrawal:

  • Financial hardships may include medical expenses, educational fees, bills to prevent foreclosure or eviction, funeral expenses, or home repairs.
  • Your withdrawal is lower or exactly the amount of financial assistance you need.

To see what you may be eligible for, look up your 401k documentation or reach out to a trusted professional.

Assess Your Current Financial Situation

Sit down and create a list of your savings, assets, and debts. How much debt do you have? Are you able to allocate different funds towards debts? If you have $2,500 in credit card debt and a steady source of income, you may be able to pay off debt by adjusting your existing habits. Cutting the cord with your TV, cable, or streaming services could be a great money saver.

However, if you’re on the verge of foreclosure or bankruptcy, living with a strict budget may not be enough. When looking into more serious debt payoff options, your 401k may be the best route.

Calculate How Much of Your Retirement Is at Risk

Having a 401k is crucial for your financial future, and the government tries to reinforce that for your best interest. To encourage people to save, anyone who withdraws their 401k early pays a 10 percent penalty fee. When, or if, you go to withdraw your earnings early, you may have to pay taxes on the amount you withdraw. Your tax rates will depend on federal income and state taxes where you reside.

Say you’re in your early twenties and you have 40 years until you’d like to retire. You decide to take out $10,000 to put towards your student loans. Your federal tax rate is 10 percent and your state tax is four percent. With the 10 percent penalty fee, federal tax, and state tax, you would receive $7,600 of your $10,000 withdrawal. The extra $2,400 expense would be paid in taxes and penalties.

The bottom line: No matter how much you withdraw early from your 401k, you will face significant fees. These fees include federal taxes, state taxes, and penalty fees.

What Are the Pros and Cons?

What Are the Pros and Cons?

Before withdrawing from your 401k, there are some pros and cons to consider before cashing out early.

Pros:

  • Pay off debt sooner: In some cases, you may pay off debt earlier than expected. By putting your 401k withdrawal toward debt, you may be able to pay off your account in full. Doing so could help you save on monthly interest payments.
  • Put more towards savings: If you’re able to pay off your debt with your early withdrawal, you may free up your budget. If you have extra money each month, you could contribute more to your savings. Adding to your savings could earn you interest when placed in a proper account.
  • Less financial stress: Debt may cause you daily stress. By increasing your debt payments with a 401k withdrawal, you may save yourself energy. After paying off debt, you may consider building your emergency funds.
  • Higher disposable income: If you’re able to pay off your debts, you may have more financial freedom. With this freedom, you could save for a house or invest in side hustles.

Cons:

  • Higher tax bill: You may have to pay a hefty tax payment for your withdrawal. Your 401k is considered gross income that’s taxed when paid out. Your federal and state taxes are determined by where you reside and your yearly income.
  • Pay a penalty fee: To discourage people from cashing out their 401k, there’s a 10 percent penalty. You may be charged this penalty in full.
  • Cut your investment earnings: You gain interest on money you have stored in your 401k. When you withdraw money, you may earn a lower amount of interest.
  • Push your retirement date: You may be robbing your future self. With less money in your retirement fund, you’ll lower your retirement income. Doing so could push back your desired retirement date.

6 Ways to Pay Off Debt Without Cashing Out Your 401k

6 Ways to Pay Off Debt Without Cashing Out Your 401k

There are a few ways to become debt-free without cutting into your 401k. Paying off debt may not be easy, but it could benefit your future self and your current state of mind. Work towards financial freedom with these six tips.

1. Negotiate Your Credit Card Interest Rates

Call your credit card customer service center and ask to lower your rates on high-interest accounts. Look at your current interest rate, account history, and competitor rates. After researching, call your credit card company and share your customer loyalty. Follow up by asking for lower interest rates to match their competitors. Earning lower interest rates may save you interest payments.

2. Halt Your Credit Card Spending

Consider restricting your credit card spending. If credit card debt is your biggest stressor, cut up or hide your cards to avoid shopping temptations. Check in on your financial goals by downloading our app for quick updates on the fly. We send out weekly updates to see where you are with your financial goals.

3. Put Bonuses Towards Your Debt

Any time you get a monetary bonus, consider putting it towards debts. This could be a raise, yearly bonus, tax refund, or monetary gifts from your loved ones. You may have a set budget without this supplemental income, so act as if you never received it. Without budgeting for the extra income, you may feel less tempted to spend it.

4. Evaluate All Your Options for Paying Down Debt

If you’re in dire need to pay off your debts, look into other accounts like your savings or emergency fund. While money saved can help in times of need, your financial situation may be an emergency. To save on early withdrawal taxes and fees, you can borrow from savings accounts. To cover future emergency expenses, avoid draining your savings accounts entirely.

5. Transfer Balances to a Low-Interest Credit Card

If high-interest payments are diminishing your budget, transfer them to a low-interest account. Compare your current debt interest rates to other competitors. Sift through their fine print to spot any red flags. Credit card companies may hide variable interest rates or fees that drive up the cost. Find a transfer card that works for you, contact the company to apply, and transfer over your balances.

6. Consider Taking Out a 401k Loan Rather than Withdrawing

To avoid early withdrawal fees, consider taking out a 401k loan. A 401k loan is money borrowed from your retirement fund. This loan charges interest payments that are essentially paid back to your future self. While some interest payments are put back in your account, your opportunity for compounding interest may slightly decrease. Compounding interest is interest earned on your principal balance and accumulated interest from past periods. While you may pay a small amount in interest fees, this option may help you avoid the 10 percent penalty fee.

As your retirement account grows, so does your interest earned — that’s why time is so valuable. While taking out a 401k loan may be a better option than withdrawing from your 401k, you may lose out on a small portion of compounding interest. When, or if, you choose to take out a 401k loan, you may start making monthly payments right away. This allows your payments to grow interest and work for you sooner than withdrawing from your 401k.

This type of loan may vary on principle balance, interest rate, term length, and other conditions. In most cases, you’re allowed to borrow up to $50,000 or half of your account balance. Some accounts may also have a minimum loan balance. This means you’ll have to take out a certain amount to qualify. Interest rates on these loans generally charge market value rates, similar to commercial banks.

Pulling funds from your retirement account may look appealing when debt is looming over you. While withdrawing money from your 401k to pay off debt may help you now, it could hurt you in taxes and fees. Before withdrawing your retirement savings, see the effect it could have on your future budget. As part of your strategy, determine where you’re able to cut out unnecessary expenses with our app. Still on the fence about whether withdrawing funds is the right move for you? Consult your financial advisor to determine a debt payoff plan that works best for your budgeting goals.

The post Should I Cash Out My 401k to Pay Off Debt? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com