Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents

Everyone knows that raising kids can put a serious squeeze on your budget. Beyond covering day-to-day living expenses, there are all of those extras to consider—sports, after-school activities, braces, a first car. Oh, and don’t forget about college.

Add caring for elderly parents to the mix, and balancing your financial and family obligations could become even more difficult.

“It can be an emotional and financial roller coaster, being pushed and pulled in multiple directions at the same time,” says financial life planner and author Michael F. Kay.

The “sandwich generation”—which describes people that are raising children and taking care of aging parents—is growing as Baby Boomers continue to age.

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives. Aside from a time commitment, you may also be committing part of your budget to caregiving expenses like food, medications and doctor’s appointments.

Budgeting tips for the sandwich generation include communicating with parents.

When you’re caught in the caregiving crunch, you might be wondering: How do I take care of my parents and kids without going broke?

The answer lies in how you approach budgeting and saving. These money strategies for the sandwich generation and budgeting tips for the sandwich generation can help you balance your financial and family priorities:

Communicate with parents

Quentara Costa, a certified financial planner and founder of investment advisory service POWWOW, LLC, served as caregiver for her father, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, while also managing a career and starting a family. That experience taught her two very important budgeting tips for the sandwich generation.

First, communication is key, and a money strategy for the sandwich generation is to talk with your parents about what they need in terms of care. “It should all start with a frank discussion and plan, preferably prior to any significant health crisis,” Costa says.

Second, run the numbers so you have a realistic understanding of caregiving costs, including how much parents will cover financially and what you can afford to contribute.

17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives.

– The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Involve kids in financial discussions

While you’re talking over expectations with your parents, take time to do the same with your kids. Caregiving for your parents may be part of the discussion, but these talks can also be an opportunity for you and your children to talk about your family’s bigger financial picture.

With younger kids, for example, that might involve talking about how an allowance can be earned and used. You could teach kids about money using a savings account and discuss the difference between needs and wants. These lessons can help lay a solid money foundation as they as move into their tween and teen years when discussions might become more complex.

When figuring out how to budget for the sandwich generation, try including your kids in financial decisions.

If your teen is on the verge of getting their driver’s license, for example, their expectation might be that you’ll help them buy a car or help with insurance and registration costs. Communicating about who will be contributing to these types of large expenses is a good money strategy for the sandwich generation.

The same goes for college, which can easily be one of the biggest expenses for parents and important when learning how to budget for the sandwich generation. If your budget as a caregiver can’t also accommodate full college tuition, your kids need to know that early on to help with their educational choices.

Talking over expectations—yours and theirs—can help you determine which schools are within reach financially, what scholarship or grant options may be available and whether your student is able to contribute to their education costs through work-study or a part-time job.

Consider the impact of caregiving on your income

When thinking about how to budget for the sandwich generation, consider that caring for aging parents can directly affect your earning potential if you have to cut back on the number of hours you work. The impact to your income will be more significant if you are the primary caregiver and not leveraging other care options, such as an in-home nurse, senior care facility or help from another adult child.

Costa says taking time away from work can be difficult if you’re the primary breadwinner or if your family is dual-income dependent. Losing some or all of your income, even temporarily, could make it challenging to meet your everyday expenses.

“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement.”

– Quentara Costa, certified financial planner

When you’re facing a reduced income, how to budget for the sandwich generation is really about getting clear on needs versus wants. Start with a thorough spending review.

Are there expenses you might be able to reduce or eliminate while you’re providing care? How much do you need to earn each month to maintain your family’s standard of living? Keeping your family’s needs in focus and shaping your budget around them is a money strategy for the sandwich generation that can keep you from overextending yourself financially.

“Protect your capital from poor decisions made from emotions,” financial life planner Kay says. “It’s too easy when you’re stretched beyond reason to make in-the-heat-of-the-moment decisions that ultimately are not in anyone’s best interest.”

Keep saving in sight

One of the most important money strategies for the sandwich generation is continuing to save for short- and long-term financial goals.

“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement,” financial planner Costa says. “While the intention to put others before ourselves is noble, you may actually be pulling the next generation backwards due to your lack of self-planning.”

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Making regular contributions to your 401(k), an individual retirement account or an IRA CD should still be a priority. Adding to your emergency savings each month—even if you have to reduce the amount you normally save to fit new caregiving expenses into your budget—can help prepare you for unexpected expenses or the occasional cash flow shortfall. Contributing to a 529 college savings plan or a Coverdell ESA is a budgeting tip for the sandwich generation that can help you build a cushion for your children once they’re ready for college life.

When you are learning how to budget for the sandwich generation, don’t forget about your children’s savings goals. If there’s something specific they want to save for, help them figure out how much they need to save and a timeline for reaching their goal.

Ask for help if you need it

A big part of learning how to budget for the sandwich generation is finding resources you can leverage to help balance your family commitments. In the case of aging parents, there may be state or federal programs that can help with the cost of care.

Remember to also loop in your siblings or other family members when researching budgeting tips for the sandwich generation. If you have siblings or relatives, engage them in an open discussion about what they can contribute, financially or in terms of caregiving assistance, to your parents. Getting them involved and asking them to share some of the load can help you balance caregiving for parents while still making sure that you and your family’s financial outlook remains bright.

The post Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

How to Prepare Your House for Winter

With cold weather approaching, it’s time to take a couple days and get your home ready for the winter weather. To help you get started, here is a checklist with some of the most important tasks to get your house ready for the snow and cold.

Check for Leaks

In the winter, you want to make sure your home is a fortress. You don’t want any of your precious heat escaping, and you don’t want any of the winter weather getting in. To help you figure out your home’s leaky spots, you can hire a professional to do an energy audit on your home. This is a great option if you don’t have the time, or the desire to climb on your roof.

Windows: Swap out your screen windows for storm windows. During that process, check around your windows to make sure they are well sealed. To help identify small gaps, carefully hold a lit match or lighter a couple inches from the frame of the window. Move the flame around, always making sure it’s a safe distance from surfaces and fabrics, and watch for the flame to “dance.” If the flame moves, there is air movement in that spot. Use caulk to seal around the frame, or use a plastic window insulation kit to cover an entire window.

Heavy curtains will help keep more heat from escaping through your windows.

Doors: Replace your screen doors with storm doors. Again, check the seals during that process. If you can see any light around your doors, you have a significant gap for warm air to escape. Even if you can’t see any light, you still want to check the rubbery weather stripping around the door. If it’s brittle or cracking, it’s not doing its job. Installing a new weather stripping kit from a hardware store is a quick fix to make sure your doors are sealed.

Ducts: As time goes by, seals on duct work can come loose. Check your duct work to make sure your ducts aren’t letting any heat out into your attic, which can cause snow to melt and refreeze as ice dams on your roof.

Roof: Before winter arrives is a great time to check your roof for the season. Climb up (or at least get on a high ladder) and examine the shingles. Replace any that are missing or broken.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's How to Prepare Your House for Winter

Make Sure Your Heating Systems Work

Furnace: Before it gets too cold, have your heating system checked out by a professional. The first really chilly day of winter is not the time to figure out your heater isn’t working. Have a heating and air company come out, check the systems, and change the filters, and you’ll be ready for Old Man Winter when he arrives.

Water Heater: The end of fall is a great time to drain your water heater. This should get done once a year, so if you haven’t done it recently, make sure you do before you find you only have really cold water in your house.

Chimney: If you have a chimney, make sure you sweep it (or have it professionally swept) before lighting any fires for the season. Removing the excess soot, as well as the birds and animals that made their homes in chimneys throughout the year, will help prevent fires and smoke damage. Also, examine the damper to make sure it’s still looking good. If it’s bent or warped, warm air will be able to escape through the chimney.

Reverse Ceiling Fans: If you have ceiling fans, now is the time to reverse them. Putting them in reverse will help blow down warm air that would otherwise be stuck near the ceiling, which will likely mean you can turn your heat down a degree or two.

If your fan runs on a remote, there is likely a button on the remote to switch the direction. If your fan runs on a switch, look for a small toggle or switch on the fan motor to make the change.

Be Ready Outdoors

Gutters: Make sure your gutters are ready to handle the winter precipitation. Empty the fallen leaves and anything else that has gathered in the gutters. Make sure they are secure to the roof, and repair them as needed. Also, make sure the drain pipe from your gutters is long enough and directing winter rains and melting snow away from your home’s foundation.

Water Lines: Prevent burst pipes by turning off all exterior water lines or insulating the pipes. If you have a sprinkler or irrigation system, drain the lines to make sure no water is left to damage the underground lines.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's Fall and Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

Tools: Be ready to get yourself out of the house by making sure all your winter tools are in good working condition. Turn on the snow blower, visually check the shovels, and stock up on salt or deicers. Having everything in its place and ready to go will give you a good start on digging out from a big blizzard.

Prepare Your Safety Kits

Pantry: During the winter, it’s always a good idea to keep extra food supplies in your pantry in case a big storm prevents you from getting to the store. Boxed and canned foods are the best because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life. Stock your pantry with a week’s worth of pastas, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, rice, beans, and bottled water, and you’ll be ready if the big one hits your town.

Boxed and canned foods are the best food to keep in stock because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life.

Lights: If a winter storm takes out your electricity, make sure you are ready with flashlights and candles to light your home. Keep flashlights in every room, and teach your kids where they are in case they need to find them in the dark.

Heat: If you have a wood burning fireplace, keep a solid stash of wood ready in case your power goes out. If you are in an area prone to losing power, you may also want to invest in a generator to run your furnace a couple hours a day during power outages. A good stash of blankets and comforters will help you get through chilly days and cold nights.

Detectors: Winter means an increase of home fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Make sure you and your family are protected by replacing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and testing them before winter hits.

All the tasks on this list are important to get done before the snow starts falling. If you don’t have the time to do them all, hire a trusted professional to help you knock a few off tasks off your list. You’ll be thankful that you have everything done and ready as soon as the first big storm hits.

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

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

3 Ways to Beat Debt Burnout

3 Ways to Beat Debt Burnout

Paying off debt with “gazelle intensity” is a great way to get rid of debt quickly. Cutting your budget to a nearly bare-bones level and working hard to increase your income, speed up debt payments and save up for retirement will help you make great progress on your financial goals, but most people can only live on a strict budget for so long before they begin experiencing debt burnout.

Find out now: How much do you need to save for retirement?

What is Debt Burnout?

Burnout is feeling exhausted with your day-to-day routine or the lack of flexibility in your budget. Some people get tired of not having extra money in their food budget to go out to eat occasionally or buy a wider variety of foods at the grocery store. Others grow tired of having little to no budget for entertainment and fun. Burnout leaves you feeling fatigued, frustrated and ready to give up on your debt-free dreams.

Beating Debt Burnout

After you’ve diagnosed yourself with debt burnout, it’s important to take immediate steps to correct it so you don’t end up un-doing all the progress you’ve made toward paying off your debt. The steps to beating burnout don’t have to be drastic. It’s possible to do it by making a few simple adjustments.

1. Reassess Your Budget

After you’ve paid down some of your debt, it’s common to start feeling some burnout from the lack of flexibility in your budget. This may be a good time to reassess your budget and perhaps give yourself a little more money for things you enjoy, like increasing how much you spend on entertainment or giving yourself a little more money for going out to eat with friends and family. This may decrease the amount of money going to debt payments, but that’s better than getting burnt out and going on a crazy credit card shopping spree down the road.

2. Plan a Fun Trip or Event

While your family is paying off debt, it’s common to give up all vacations, trips and fun events. But when you start experiencing debt burnout, planning for one of these events is a great way to stay motivated and give your family something to look forward to. The trip or event doesn’t have to be a huge and expensive ordeal. Even a short day or weekend trip is something to look forward to when you are living on such a tight budget. Try planning for when you hit a milestone – paying off half of your debt or even for when the whole thing is paid off.

3. Find Some Support

When you start to feel burnt out and unmotivated to continue your debt payoff journey, seeking out an accountability partner is a great way to help you stay on track. Single people can especially benefit from having someone to confide in and bounce ideas off of. But even couples and families can use the outside perspective of an accountability partner to help them keep focused on their financial goals and beat debt burnout.

Debt burnout is a real thing that many people struggle with as they work their way out of debt. The more debt you have to begin with and the longer the time frame for paying it off, the more likely it is that you’ll face burnout at some point.

Find out now: Should I get a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage? 

What other ways can you think of to help beat debt burnout?

Photo credit: flickr

The post 3 Ways to Beat Debt Burnout appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips

According to a YouGov Parent Survey in 2019, a quarter of parents entered the 2019 holiday shopping seasonstill paying down debt related to 2018 holiday spending. Deloitte numbers put holidayretail salesgrowth in 2019 at 4.1% year-over-year. In 2020, Deloitte predicts growth of between 1% and 1.5% year-over-year for the holiday season.

It might be that some people no longer want to pay for holiday gifts, decorations and food a year down the road. But it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumerwallets and some people might be cutting back this year.

That doesn’t mean that people aren’t shopping. Google and other thought leaders note that changes to shopping habits and the need for social distancing and other measures will likely spread the holiday shopping season out longer. Shoppers are also likely to turn to online shopping.

With a ton of shopping opportunities, a longer holiday shopping season and pent-up pandemic energy, it might be easy to overspend and create debt you’ll deal with into the future. Follow these tips to prepare for holiday shopping so you can protect your financial standing, save money and make the most of the resources you have this season.

1. Check your credit scores

Begin by checking your credit scores and reports. They tell you where you stand if you want to apply for credit. They also give you a baseline of where you are so you know if your score goes up or down later with no explanation.

An unexplained drop in your credit score can be a sign your financial information is compromised. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for many scammers. Using a service, such as ExtraCredit’s Track It feature to keep tabs on 28 of your FICO scores, helps you know when you need to act to protect your credit.

2. Ask for a credit limit increase

If you have existing credit cards and you’re a cardholder in good standing, the months prior to the holidays can be a good time to ask for a credit limit increase. You’re not asking so you can spend more-it’s typically advisable to keep spending in line with your budget no matter how much credit you have.

You’re asking for a higher limit so you can spend what you already planned to without hurting your credit utilization. Credit utilization is the second-most important factor in determining your credit score-second only to payment history. It’s the ratio between your credit limit and how much of that credit you have used.

If you have a card with a limit of $1,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of 30%. But if you get approved for a credit limit of $2,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of only 15%, which is better for your score.

3. Apply for a credit cardwith a 0% APR introductory offer

Those with good or excellent credit might want to consider applying for a card with a 0% APR introductory offer. If you qualify for such a card, you typically have one or two years to pay off purchases made during the introductory period without accruing any interest.

This can be a way to finance your entire holiday without paying anything more for the privilege of doing so. However, it’s still important to maintain your budget and not overspend just because you won’t be paying the balance off until later. Otherwise, you make this season’s holiday festivities next season’s problem.

4. Pay down debt before-and after-the holidays

Speaking of last season’s debt: If you can pay it down before you start spending this season, that’s a great accomplishment. It also frees up your credit and your budget so you can better enjoy the current holiday season. If you’re paying $100 a month on your debt, that’s $100 a month that might go toward gifts or celebrations that you don’t have to put on a card this year.

If you do use credit to pay for the 2020 holidays, have a plan for paying it down as soon as possible. That’s especially true with 0% interest cards. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you’ll miss the introductory period and potentially be on the hook for a lot of interest expense.

5. Create a holiday spending budget

Whether you’re using cash or credit-or a mix of both-enter the 2020 holiday shopping season with a plan. Take an honest look at your personal budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one before you move forward. Then decide how much you can realistically spend during the holidays.

Consider which gifts you want to buy and which events you want to host or attend. You might not be able to do everything, and that’s OK. Be honest with yourself, your family and your friends about what you can afford to do with your time and money this year.

Then make a list and assign each item a monetary budget. That can include:

  • Gifts as a total
  • Gift extras, such as wrapping and tags
  • Shipping, both for receiving items you buy and for shipping gifts to others
  • Food and drinks
  • Travel
  • Decor
  • General festivities, such as tickets to holiday events

Once you assign a dollar amount to a category, stick to it. That’s a good idea even if you’re spending with credit.

6. Align budgeted spendingwith credit cardrewards

Once you know how much you want to spend, decide how best to spend it. If you’re using credit cards for the holidays, check your accounts to see if any offer cash back or rewards points. If they do, double-check which categories or stores you can shop in to earn the most points with each card.

For example, some travel rewards cards offer 6x points when you shop at supermarkets. You could use such a card to cover the food-and-drink portion of your holiday budget and reap the biggest rewards possible from that spending. You might also be able to maximize rewards when purchasing gift cards.

7. Guard your financial information and identity

As you enjoy holiday shopping, be on guard. Don’t use debit card PIN numbers unless you have to, and shield the keypad when you enter your information. Keep a close eye on your wallet or purse, and check your credit card statements regularly to ensure all charges are yours. You can also use ExtraCredit’s Guard It feature to help keep your identity and account information safe during and beyond the season.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

The post Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Should you get an MBA if you want to start your own business?

The path to owning my own business started around 10 years ago. I graduated from high school and went on to college for business. I graduated, got a job as a financial analyst, and then around five years ago, completed my MBA with an emphasis in Finance.

Should you get an MBA if you want to start your own business? Is it a need? Or, can a person start a business without a college degree?It seemed like a logical path – graduate from high school, go to college, get a job in that field, and then get my MBA to further my career opportunities.

It was the path I fell into, and I never really gave it a second thought. For my MBA, I figured I needed it in order to be successful in the corporate finance world.

However, I’m now a full-time blogger.

One of the questions I’m often asked is if I regret going to school for so many college degrees (3). After all, it took a lot of time and led to a significant amount of debt.

I definitely did not learn a thing about blogging back in college, and an MBA isn’t 100% focused on the topic of starting your own specific business, especially a niche one. Plus, I did not get my MBA thinking that I would be starting my own business. I went for it to better my career opportunities.

Related content:

  • How I Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans in 7 Months
  • Cutting College Costs: Understanding The Cost And Value Of Your Degree
  • Learning How To Survive On A College Budget
  • How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 28.8 million small businesses in the United States, which make up 99.7% of all U.S. businesses. And, a huge number of the population are starting their own business and working for themselves.

But, does that mean they all need or have an MBA?

Remember, an MBA is not required when starting your own business. But, does that mean that those without an MBA do better or worse?

I researched to see what the value of an MBA is, and I was able to find a great chart from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics about unemployment rates and earnings by educational attainment for 2016.

This data shows earnings for full-time wage and salary workers, but it doesn’t specify those who have started their own business. However, it does show that there is some value in a Master’s degree.

According to this chart, the unemployment rate is much lower for those with one or multiple college degrees. The median usual weekly earnings tends to increase as well.

However, according to a report released by the Harvard Business Review, most of the top business leaders in the world actually do NOT have MBAs. In fact, only 29 of the 100 best companies had executives with MBAs, and less than half of those received their MBA from an elite business school (think Harvard, Stanford, etc.).

Here’s a short list from Business Insider’s Top 100 Entrepreneurs Who Made Millions Without A College Degree:

  • Walt Disney, founder of the Walt Disney Company, dropped out of high school at 16.
  • Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, and more. He also dropped out of high school at 16.
  • Rachael Ray, Food Network cooking show star, food industry entrepreneur, with no formal culinary arts training. She never attended college.
  • Michael Dell, billionaire founder of Dell Computers, started his business out of his college dorm room, but he later dropped out of college.
  • Larry Ellison, billionaire co-founder of Oracle software company. Ellison actually dropped out of two different colleges.

However, there are also many successful people who do have MBAs, such as Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and Dr. Oz.

So, should you get an MBA if you want to start your own business?

 

MBAs can be expensive.

An MBA can cost anywhere from $5,000 to well over $100,000 depending on what college you attend.

And, according to Poetsandquants.com, the cost of obtaining your MBA continues to rise.

New York University’s Stern School of Business costs over $200,000, Harvard Business School has a total two-year cost to $204,640, and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business costs $210,838.

That is a TON of money in order to get your MBA.

I went to a moderately priced state university and received my MBA, and I think that it was a great value. However, if I had to pay over $200,000 to receive my MBA, I don’t know if it would be worthwhile. That’s a lot of money for not much real world experience that can be applied to a specific business idea.

And, let’s not forget about the amount of time it can take to receive your MBA.

For some students, they focus on their MBA full-time, which means that they aren’t bringing in an income, or they are bringing in significantly less than needed to sustain most living expenses. Some MBA students do work full-time, but they usually take a smaller course load.

I worked on my MBA full-time and worked full-time, which meant that I didn’t have time for pretty much anything else in life.

Plus, if you know that you want to start a business, the time it takes to get an MBA can make that goal that much farther away.

 

An MBA surrounds you with other determined people.

By earning your MBA, you’ll most likely be surrounded by a network full of people who are wanting to succeed in the business world.

This can help you build your future business idea, gain contacts that may help you and your business later on, and more.

I always say that networking is extremely important, and an MBA can definitely help you in that area.

 

An MBA won’t specifically teach you about the business you want to start.

An MBA will give you a pretty well rounded background on business in general. However, it won’t teach you everything you need to know about starting and sustaining your specific business plan.

This means that you will probably have to learn how to start your specific business elsewhere, such as researching your ideas and business plans outside of your MBA program.

For example, if you want to start a blogging business, you most likely won’t learn anything about a blogging while earning your MBA. The same goes for many other business ideas as most MBAs aren’t really focused on specific markets.

What they do offer is a good background on the actual “business” side of starting your own business, as discussed below.

 

You do learn about business, though.

While earning an MBA is more about business theory, it still offers you a lot of background information that can help you create your own business.

Through my MBA and the career I had as an analyst, I learned about business accounting, business law, managing a business, economics, business finances, marketing, advertising, and more. These are all things you should know about when running your own business. Sure, you can outsource a lot of these tasks, but for most start-ups, you may personally have to take on many of these tasks, especially in the beginning.

My analyst position also taught me a lot about running a profitable business, since I dealt with successful business owners every day.

There are a lot of times that my education and work experience have helped me run my own business. And, I am extremely grateful because it has helped me run my business extremely well.

According to Investopedia, around 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years, and 66% during the first 10 years.

Some of the reasons for failure that are cited in the above article include:

  • Business owners not investigating the market.
  • Business owners have problems with their business plan.
  • A bad location, bad internet presence, and bad marketing for the business.

These are all things that are taught, in general, when working on your MBA, which can be great background knowledge for someone wanting to start their own business.

 

What about real experience?

I believe that real experience is the best. However, with an MBA, you can receive a well rounded education that can help you to launch a successful business.

You can learn how to manage a team, understand business specific finances, research the best business plan, and more.

When put together with real experience, I think that an MBA can be a great learning tool.

Does that mean that everyone should get their MBA?

No. Everyone is different, but I do believe that my MBA has helped me manage my own business.

What do you think? Should a person who wants to start a business get their MBA? If you’re already a business owner, do you have one? Why or why not?

The post Should you get an MBA if you want to start your own business? appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Best credit cards for grocery shopping

Americans spend on average $4,464 in groceries every year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Shopping for groceries is one of the main weekly expenses in every American household.

That’s why the credit cards tying reward points to grocery shopping are getting more numerous and their offers are getting increasingly more competitive. In 2020 you have a whole new lineup of cards ready to reward you for the purchases you make at grocery stores.

Here are the best cards whether you like those premium rewards, are an everyday shopper, are building credit, you’d rather skip the prep and go straight to the meal or you like to buy groceries at superstores.

See related: Best cash back cards

American Express® Gold Card – Best for earning Membership Rewards points on groceries

  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express – Best for earning cash back on groceries
  • Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card – Best for earning cash back on groceries with no annual fee
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® – Best for earning cash back on groceries and everything else
  • Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card – Best for earning cash back on groceries and dining out
  • Target REDcard™ – Best for earning cash back on Target purchases
  • Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Mastercard® – Best for earning cash back on Walmart purchases
  • American Express® Gold Card: Best for earning Membership Rewards points on groceries

    Amex Gold gives you an unprecedented rewards rate whether you’re dining in or out. If that weren’t enough, paying at certain eligible restaurants (see terms for qualifying merchants) after enrollment can get you up to $10 a month in statement credit. You also get up to $120 in Uber Cash every year ($10 per month) that can be applied to U.S. Uber Eats orders – a big plus for those who order their groceries through the platform (must add Gold Card to Uber app in order to receive the Uber Cash benefit).

    The intro bonus of 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months is excellent, and there are many redemption options, including gift cards, merchandise and travel with no blackout dates.

    The card charges an annual fee of $250, but if you take advantage of both the Uber Cash and the dining credit, keeping the Amex Gold card will essentially cost you $10 every year.

    If you are OK with only redeeming travel directly through Amextravel.com or Amex’s airline partners to maximize the value of the Membership Rewards points you’ll earn, this is a great card for foodies and travelers.

    Here’s a closer look at the features:

    • 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months
    • 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases – 1 point thereafter
    • 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide (including Uber Eats orders)
    • 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly through airlines or on amextravel.com
    • Up to $120 annual dining credit (up to a $10 statement credit monthly) when you pay at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required)
    • Up to $120 in Uber Cash per year ($10 per month)
    • No foreign transaction fees

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for earning cash back on groceries

    Even though it has fewer features than the Amex Gold, it gives you perhaps the highest cash back rate available on groceries, and it has a lower annual fee – $95. Plus, running errands like groceries is way easier when you get cash back on gas for the commute. Take a closer look:

    • $250 statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
    • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%
    • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max
    • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
    • 3% on transit purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases

    Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: Best for earning cash back on groceries with no annual fee

    The Bank of America Cash Rewards card offers grocery shoppers the opportunity to double down on cash back for food by selecting dining for its 3% category along with its outstanding 2% rate on grocery stores and wholesale clubs, with no annual fee.

    If cardholders want something other than dining for the 3% rate, Cash Rewards offers the flexibility to let them choose their own category. However, the $2,500 quarterly spending cap on both categories is low.

    Have a closer look:

    • $200 in online cash rewards when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
    • 3% cash back on a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvements and furnishings)
    • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
    • $2,500 combined quarterly limit on 2% and 3% cash back categories
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • No annual fee

    Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for earning cash back on groceries and everything else

    For those who don’t want to have to choose a spending category but still want no annual fee, Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a consistent rate of at least 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

    • 5% cash back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
    • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
    • $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first 3 months
    • Cash back rewards do not expire
    • No annual fee

    Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card*: Best for earning cash back on groceries and dining out

    This card is for those with way too packed a social life to buy groceries. Sure, you get 2% cash back at grocery stores for those times your social calendar eases up and you can actually get to the store, but otherwise, you get way more return on your cash back when you dine out or see a show.

    Plus, if you love concerts, 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats is absolutely unprecedented.

    Check out the details:

    • $300 cash bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first three months
    • 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats (offer expires January 2022)
    • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
    • 2% cash back at grocery stores
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • $95 annual fee

    Why go to a standard grocery store when superstores allow you to get the grocery shopping done all in one shot? For those who prefer one-stop shopping, there are some great credit card options for superstore shoppers that will give you monster returns you don’t often see with standard cash back cards as long as you use them in-store.

    Target REDcard™: Best for earning cash back on Target purchases

    The Target Redcard has no annual fee. This, combined with its standard offer of 5% off in-store purchases applied right at the checkout counter and 5% off at Target.com with free shipping, makes it a great card for frequent Target shoppers, especially since the 5% discount is applied in perpetuity. You can also stack your discount with others available through Target’s Cartwheel app and in-store.

    Though most people don’t need 120 days to return an item, you get that with this card when its extra 30 days is combined with Target’s standard 90-day return policy. The extra time could allow a greater piece of mind on those large ticket items you buy.

    However, if you’re known to carry a balance, this isn’t the right card for you. The high variable APR can far outweigh the 5% discount, so pay the card off after each billing cycle.

    Here’s a snapshot of all the benefits of this card: 

    • 5% off eligible Target purchases in-store and online at Target.com (except pharmacy purchases)
    • Can be used together with Target Circle and other discounts
    • Free two-day shipping on orders from Target.com with no spending minimum
    • An extra 30 days to return items on top of the standard 90-day return policy
    • Early access to special events, products and promotions
    • No annual fee

    Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®: Best for earning cash back on Walmart purchases

    This card is great because, unlike Target’s Redcard, it offers some cash back outside of Walmart purchases, including 2% cash back at restaurants and travel and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

    However, while Target’s Redcard offers its in-store 5% discount with no limit, the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard only offers the same discount in-store for the first 12 months and you have to use Walmart’s mobile wallet on your purchases to get it.

    Where this card really shines is online, especially if you do a lot of grocery pickup or delivery orders from Walmart.com.

    It’s very easy to apply for and, like the Redcard, it carries no annual fee, as well as some smaller benefits you’ll see below:

    • 5% cash back on Walmart purchases online, including grocery and delivery orders
    • 5% cash back on in-store purchases in the first year when you pay using the Walmart Pay digital wallet
    • 2% cash back on restaurant and travel purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • No annual fee or foreign transaction fee
    • Easily apply via text message
    • Card is automatically transferred to Walmart Pay digital wallet on approval
    • Fraud alerts and the ability to freeze your account

    Comparing the best cards for grocery shopping

    Card Grocery bonus Other rewards Annual fee
    American Express® Gold Card 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases – 1 point thereafter

     

    • 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months
    • 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide (including Uber Eats orders)
    • 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly through airlines or on amextravel.com
    • Up to $120 annual dining credit (up to a $10 statement credit monthly) when you pay at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required)
    • Up to $120 in Uber Cash per year ($10 per month)
    $250
    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%
    • $250 statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
    • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max
    • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
    • 3% on transit purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $95
    Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
    • $200 in online cash rewards when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
    • 3% cash back on a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvements and furnishings)
    • $2,500 combined quarterly limit on 2% and 3% cash back categories
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $0
    Chase Freedom Unlimited® n/a
    • 5% cash back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
    • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
    • $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first 3 months
    $0
    Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card 2% cash back at grocery stores
    • 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats (offer ends January 2022)
    • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment
    • 1% cash back on other purchases
    • $300 bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
    $95
    Target REDcard™ 5% discount at Target and Target.com n/a $0
    Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®
    • 5% cash back on in-store purchases for the first 12 months when using Walmart Pay
    • 5% cash back on Walmart.com purchases, including grocery pickup and delivery orders
    • 2% cash back on in-store Walmart purchases after the introductory period
    • 2% cash back on restaurant and travel purchases
    • 2% cash back on the purchase of gift cards at Walmart (online, app, Walmart Pay or in stores
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $0

    Honorable mentions

    There is no shortage of credit card options that reward grocery spending, so in addition to our top picks above, consider these alternatives.

    • Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card – A no-annual-fee alternative to the Capital One Savor Card, the SavorOne offers the same 2% cash back on grocery store purchases. While it offers a slightly lower rate on dining and entertainment than the Savor card, the SavorOne is a good alternative for those wary to pay an annual fee.
    • U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card – The newly launched U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card offers a competitive rewards rate on both dining and grocery purchases – 4 points per dollar on dining and food delivery and 2 points per dollar on groceries, to be exact. It also offers 2 points per dollar on gas and streaming service purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Plus, it doesn’t charge an annual fee.
    • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card – If you prefer to do your grocery shopping at Whole Foods, you can’t beat the rewards rate on the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card. In addition to 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases, the card offers the same 5% rate at Whole Foods locations. You’ll also earn 2% back on restaurant, gas station and drug store purchases and 1% on everything else. You have to be a Prime member to qualify for the card, but if you spend a significant amount on Amazon orders or at Whole Foods, your rewards can help offset the cost of membership.
    • Apple Card – The Apple Card is best known for its high rewards rate on Apple purchases, but it can also be a great choice for grocery shopping. When you make a purchase via Apple Pay, the card offers 2% back on all qualifying purchases. This is on par with some of the highest flat-rate credit card offers. Just make sure your preferred grocery story accepts the mobile wallet before you work this card into your rewards strategy.

    How to pick the right card for grocery shopping

    For most of us, using a credit card at a grocery store simply involves taking it out in the checkout line. But if you want to up your grocery shopping game and save some serious money, here are some tips and secret strategies from credit card experts and the most seasoned shoppers we could find.

    When picking the credit card you’ll use at the grocery store most experts recommend either a card with a high cash back rate that can provide a percentage off every time you shop or a tiered rewards card that offers specific rewards every time you use it for groceries.

    “When you use a cash back card, it’s like having a coupon to save a certain amount off your total purchase each and every time you buy groceries. This savings isn’t limited to grocery stores – a flat-rate rewards card will apply the same cash back or miles to all of your purchases,” says Ashley Dull of CardRates.com.

    However, if you’re picking a tiered rewards card with a grocery store category, they often have a limit on how much you can earn annually.

    For example, American Express limits the 6% cash back rate spent at U.S. supermarkets annually on its Blue Cash Preferred Card to $6,000 in purchases (after that, it’s 1%), so be mindful of those restrictions.

    Apple Card gives you cash back every day.

    You also want to pick a card where rewards don’t expire, there are multiple options for redemption and you can transfer rewards between accounts. Always keep track of the terms of your credit card and compare card features vigorously before making your final selection.

    How to earn the most rewards while grocery shopping

    If you really want to maximize your rewards at the grocery store, stack your savings with a cash back app such as Ibotta, Fetch Rewards or Checkout 51. Your grocery store’s loyalty app is also a great way to double-dip on savings.

    “By taking a few minutes to scan in your grocery receipts, a family of four can easily earn over $25 a month in rewards,” says Nermeen Ghneim of The Savvy Dollar personal finance blog.

    Finally, if you’re choosing a store-branded credit card because you tend to shop at the same store all the time, make sure you pay off the balance before the billing cycle resets because store cards tend to have very high interest and fees.

    “Many people know that making a habit of paying off high interest credit cards will actually have a slightly negative effect on their credit,” says Dan Gallagher, author, retired financial planner and personal finance expert at ScoreSense.com. “But some grocery credit cards are in-house credit extensions, especially the ones that are valid in-store only. The in-store-only variety does not harm your score for avoiding interest and paying balances off early, so do not fear a grocery store credit card.”

    *All information about the Capital One Savor card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. 

    Source: creditcards.com