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

Starting a Business With a Friend: 4 Things to Consider

The ultimate question: Could you and your friend make the perfect business duo? The answer may be more complicated than you think. You love spending time with your friend and the idea of becoming entrepreneurs together. Why not fulfill your dreams with each other? Companies like Airbnb and Ben & Jerry’s had success in this area — they all started from friendships.

But much more goes into starting a business with a friend. You may make great business partners, or you could wish you had taken your venture solo. Before making any financial decisions, analyze the pros and cons and ask hard questions. For example, will you equally invest? Who will take on which tasks and responsibilities? Sift through the easy and hard questions to see where your business friendship lies.

To help you and your friend make a confident and informed decision, skip to our flowchart or keep reading.

karen-gordon-quote

Questions to Ask Before Going Into Business With a Friend

Before jumping into your business plan, ask the hard questions. These can be tough to ask and answer, but they could save your friendship from a business relationship gone sour.

Question 1: Do You Share the Same Values?

Depending on your life stage and goals, your values could differ greatly from those of your potential business partner. You may appreciate living a relaxed lifestyle that gives you the financial freedom to do what you love, while others may value a fast-paced lifestyle filled with activities and long workdays. Differences in values could spark tension in your business relationship.

Ask yourself: Do you and your potential business friend have the same values? If so, great! If not, note your differences and if they’re worth working through.

Question 2: Do You Share the Same Business Goal?

To make sure you’re on the same page, schedule a brainstorming session with your friend. Map out your one-month, six-month, one-year, and five-year goals for your startup. Is your goal to make a certain amount of revenue? To hire a certain number of full-time employees? Or to take your business idea global?

If you have the same intentions, move on to question three. If any of your goals contrast, there may be trouble in paradise. See if you can work through your differences before investing your time and money.

Question 3: Do Your Skills Complement Each Other?

You and your friend each have your own strengths For example, you may be good at time management while your friend is better at sales. For skills you’re both lacking, think about how you’ll fill in the gaps. If you and your friend’s startup plan has a budget for hiring freelancers, or one of you has the dedication to learn something new, this may not be a concern. No matter what, especially if you’re bootstrapping your business idea, it’s essential to talk through it.

If you don’t compliment each other’s needed skills, who will step up and learn them?

Question 4: Do Your Career and Lifestyle Habits Align?

Depending on your business goals, this could be a make or break question for a professional partnership. For instance, one friend may be a morning person while the other’s a night owl. One can take over morning meetings and emails while the other’s responsible for evening website development and customer service.

If one friend’s lifestyle habits don’t suit the other, it may be best to opt for other business opportunities. While starting a business could adjust your habits, it’s easy to fall back into old ones from time to time.

baylie-carlson-quote

The Pros and Cons of Doing Business With Friends

Before entering any business arrangement, it’s reassuring to weigh the pros and cons. Could your new business idea benefit or hinder your future relationship and career?

Pros: You Have a Friend Through the Ups and Downs

Starting a business with a friend is similar to marriage — you’re there for each other through the good and bad. Whenever you’re having trouble, you know who you can go to for help. And you’ll be able to do most tasks together. For example, approaching investors as a team vs. going solo could put your nerves at ease.

Cons: You Know the Same People

Instead of getting together for your weekly catch-ups, you could spend all day together! While this can be exciting, it can also be hard to leave work at work. When you both hang out with the same people, there may be little room to disconnect from each other and your business.

Pros: You Understand Each Other’s Strengths and Weaknesses

You likely already know how each other operates and your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of learning the way a new business partner functions, you already have the upper hand. On day one, you and your partner could delegate tasks that fit everyone’s strengths best.

Cons: Your Friendship Could Turn Strictly Business

Your current friendship can be hard to separate from your new work partnership. Taking your work too seriously could stiffen your current relationship. Even after your work’s done, “friend” time may slow down. To have the best of both worlds, over-communicate throughout your entrepreneurial adventures.

mike-falahee-quote

Pros: You Feel Comfortable Communicating

You may have been friends for months, years, or even decades. Having a strong friendship foundation helps bolster your communication in the workplace. Plus, you most likely know how your friend may react to a situation gone wrong. Take note of your friends’ communication habits and foster them throughout your business relationship.

Cons: It’s Easy to Let Emotions Get the Best of You

Be careful not to let your emotions dictate your business decisions. A situation could happen in your friend group that makes its way into the office. To avoid any personal matters in the workplace, come to an agreement — no drama. If situations arise, take some time off to clear your mind, rest, and come back more motivated and inspired.

Pros: You Get to Spend More Time With Each Other

You get to spend countless hours talking and doing business activities together. You could spend all day tackling business tasks and wrap up the workday chit-chatting about your lives. It’s an amazing opportunity to spend more time with your friend without letting other responsibilities slip through the cracks.

Cons: Friendship Failure Could End in Financial and Business Failure

When tension builds in the workplace, it could damage your business outcomes. Not wanting to attend a meeting with your partner could halt business productivity, or worse, end it. To avoid losing profits on your friendship and investments, you should both outline an exit plan if things go wrong.

Tips for Starting a Business With Your Friend

Before toasting to your other half and investing in your passions, properly prepare yourself. Show up to your new business like you would a new job. Have your plan documented before building your business empire.

1. Nit-Pick Your Business Plan

Small issues could grow months or years after starting your business. To avoid future problems, talk through small and large inconsistencies with your partner. Having different lifestyle habits may not be an issue now, but could be difficult after a year of working together.

2. Communicate Often

About one third of projects lack proper communication. Avoid project or business failure by finding a communication method that works for you and your partner. Daily catch-up meetings or weekly email updates are a few examples. Make it enjoyable by sipping your favorite coffee or eating your lunch while playing catch up.

3. Establish and Honor Boundaries

Eliminate tension in the workplace by setting a rubric for working hours. Avoid talking about personal matters until you step away from your work tasks. If you and your partner need to establish additional boundaries, clearly outline them as they come up.

4. Make it Official With Contracts

Once you’ve worked through any complications, put it all in writing. If things were to go wrong, documents and written statements can be referenced in court. To do this, contact a lawyer and draft up a business plan. Any business promises you make should be in writing for any miscommunications. Compensation rates, profit shares, investment contributions, and business accounts are a few things that should be listed on this document.

Before investing your time, energy, or money into your startup dreams, make sure you’re fully prepared. Could you and your friend be great business partners? Take our quiz below to find out. Don’t forget to keep track of your budget and investments throughout the startup process.

Starting a Business With a Friend: 4 Things to Consider appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Minimum Payments on a Credit Card

Your minimum monthly payment is the lowest amount that you need to pay on your credit card balance. Any less could result in a derogatory mark, any more will clear more of the principal. 

Your monthly payment is one of the most important aspects of your credit card debt and failure to understand this could seriously impact your credit score and leave marks on your credit report that remain for up to 7 years.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how these payments operate and how you can quickly clear your credit card debt.

How Minimum Payments on a Credit Card are Calculated

The minimum payment is calculated as a percentage of the total balance at the end of the month. This percentage ranges from 2% to 5%, but it has been known to go lower. 

As an example, if you have a $5,000 credit card balance and are required to pay 5% a month, then your monthly payment will be $250. However, this only covers the principal, which is the money that you borrowed. It does not cover the interest, which is where things get a little complicated and expensive.

What Influences Your Minimum Monthly Payment?

The reason credit card interest is so high is because it compounds. This means that if you have an annual percentage rate of 20% and a debt of $20,000, that debt will climb to $24,000, at which point the next billing cycle will commence and this time you’ll be charged 20% on $24,000 and not $20,000.

However, credit card interest is calculated daily, not yearly. To arrive at your daily percentage rate, simply divide your interest rate by 365 (the number of days in a year) and then multiply this by your daily balance.

For example, if we stick with that 20% interest rate, then the daily rate will be 0.00054%. If we multiply this with the daily balance, we get an interest rate of $2.7 for the first day. Multiply this by 30, for the total days in a billing cycle, and it’s $81. That’s your total interest for the first month.

So, when we calculate the 2% minimum monthly payment, we’re calculating it against $5,081, not $5,000, which means we get a total of $101.62, reducing the balance to just $479.38.

In other words, you pay over $100, but reduce the balance by a little over $20 when you make that monthly payment. If penalty fees and interest rates are added to that, it will reduce in even smaller increments.

Pros and Cons of Only Paying the Minimum Payment on your Credit Card

As discussed above, it’s imperative that you make the minimum payment, avoiding any late payment charges or credit score reductions. However, if you only make those minimum payments every month then it will take a long time to clear your balance and you may struggle to keep your head above water.

The Benefits of Paying More Than the Minimum

Many borrowers struggle to pay more than the minimum not because they don’t have the money, but because they fail to see the benefits. They focus on the short-term and not the long-term, seeing an extra $100 payment as a lost $100 in the present, as opposed to a saved $500 in the future.

However, if you can get over this mindset and start paying more than the minimum, you will do your future self a huge favor, helping with all of the following:

Shorten the Term and Lessen the Interest

Every extra dollar that you add to your minimum payment can help you get out of debt quicker than if you simply stick with the minimum. This is true for all debts—a higher monthly payment means that more money goes towards the principal, which means there is less interest to compound.

Credit card debt is like a snowball gathering momentum as it rolls, and this is exacerbated every time you miss a payment and are hit with penalty fees. By paying more than the minimum, you’re taking a giant chunk out of that snowball and slowing its progression.

You’ll Improve Your Credit Utilization

Your credit utilization ratio is one of the most important parts of your credit report, counting for 30% of your total. This ratio takes your total available credit (such as a credit limit on a credit card) and then compares it to total debt (such as the balance on that credit card). The higher the number, the more of your credit has been used and the more your credit score will suffer.

Every time you pay more of your credit card balance, you’re reducing this score and significantly boosting your credit score.

Avoid Maxing Out Your Balance

Not only will a maxed-out credit card do some serious damage to your credit utilization score, but it can also have a direct impact on your credit score on the whole. Lenders don’t want to see it and credit bureaus will punish you for it. If you’re still using the card and only paying the minimum, you may be stuck in a cycle of persistent debt, but by paying more and using it less, you can prevent that.

You May Get a Better Credit Limit

Credit card issuers monitor their customer’s activities very closely. If they clear their balances every month without issue, they are more inclined to increase their credit limit, offer them rewards, and generally provide them with good opportunities. If they are accumulating large amounts of credit card debt and only meeting their minimum payments, they’ll be less inclined to do any of those things.

It always helps to get on a creditor’s good side, because you never know when you will need that improve credit limit or access to that generous rewards scheme.

What Happens if you Only Make the Minimum Payment?

If you only pay the minimum, the debt will take a long time to clear and you’ll repay huge sums of interest in that time. If we go back to the previous example and assume an APR of 20%, a balance of $5,000 and a minimum payment of 2%, you will repay over 400% in interest alone and it will take you decades to repay the debt.

Thankfully, very few credit card providers will actually let you pay such a small amount on such a substantial debt. But even if we increase the minimum payment to 5%, it still looks abysmal for the borrower. It would take them about 9 years to pay the balance, requiring $250 a month and paying close to $2,500 in interest.

Although it’s more realistic, this is still a poor option, especially when you consider the card will still be active and you may still be using it, which means that every time you make a repayment, you’re adding more debt and offsetting all your hard work.

Your credit score will not suffer if you only make the minimum payment. Providing you make it on time then you will build a respectable payment history, a stable credit report, and a credit score that is sure to impress lenders. However, it won’t look great for your finances as you’re giving yourself an expensive liability that will cripple your debt-to-income ratio and your credit utilization ratio for years to come.

Are There Any Advantages to Just Paying the Minimum?

The only advantage to paying just the minimum is that you will have more money in your pocket at the end of the month, which will allow you to make additional investments and purchases that would otherwise not be available to you. However, this is a pretty narrow-minded way of looking at it, because while you will have more cash in the long-term, it comes at the expense of many additional risks and obligations, not to mention thousands of dollars’ worth of additional interest paid over the term.

What Happens if you Can’t Pay the Minimum Payment?

If there is a late payment or a missed payment, your creditor may charge you a penalty fee or a penalty rate. If your payment is due for more than 30-days they may also report you to the credit bureaus, at which point a derogatory mark will appear on your credit report and your credit score will drop.

This can happen even with a single missed payment, which is why you should never simply skip a payment on the basis that you’ll just double-up next time around.

Instead, contact your creditor, explain your situation, and see if there is anything they can do to help you. They may say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, and, in most cases, they will offer you some kind of reprieve. After all, they want their money, and if they can increase their chances of getting paid by providing you with some leeway, they’ll often be more than happy to do it.

Some people believe that you can simply pay a few dollars and it will count as a minimum payment and not show on your credit report. This is a myth. Technically, any payment that doesn’t meet the full minimum requirement can be classed as a late payment and can lead to fees and derogatory marks.

Resources to Lower Minimum Payments on a Credit Card

It’s important to keep a close eye on your credit card statement and activity at all times. Monitor your spending, making sure it doesn’t go overboard, and if you find yourself struggling to make payments at any time, checkout the following resources and options to get the help you need:

  • Credit Counselors: Speak with a trained expert who has helped many individuals in a similar position. They will discuss your finances and your debts and will help you to find a solution.
  • Debt Management: A debt management plan can help when you’re struggling to meet your debt obligations and have a huge debt-to-income ratio. They will provide assistance and help you swap multiple debts for a single consolidation loan.
  • Debt Settlement: An option that works best for individuals with multiple debts and missed payments. It’s one of the cheapest ways to clear personal loan and credit card debt, as well as other forms of unsecured debt.
  • Debt Consolidation: Another consolidation loan option, this time with a long term, ensuring that you pay less per month but more over the term. This is a good option if you’re stuck in a tricky spot right now and need to reduce your outgoings.

In all the above cases, you can use the NMLS Consumer Access site to find a legitimate and reputable company or professional working within the financial sector. You can also use resources like the Better Business Bureau as well as the many guides, reviews, and help files right here on the Pocket Your Dollars website.

How to Reduce the Balance on a Credit Card Debt

One of the best ways to reduce your balance is to initiate a balance transfer. As the name suggests, this entails moving your balance from one card to another. Balance transfer cards entice you by offering a 0% APR on all transfers and this lasts for up to 18% with the best providers. 

In that time, you won’t pay any interest on your balance, which means all your monthly payment will go towards the principal and you can reduce your debt in huge leaps as opposed to small steps.

These cards are not without their issues, however. You will need a good credit score to get a card that has a good APR and balance transfer offer. If you don’t, and you fail to clear the balance during that introductory period, you may be paying more interest than you were before.

In most cases, though, these cards will be just what you need to ease the burden of mounting credit card debts and get back into the black. Take a look at our guide to the best balance transfer cards to learn more and discover how you can move your current balance to a card that has more preferable terms, in the short-term at least.

The Bottom Line: Clear that Balance

A minimum payment is the least amount you need to commit to a credit card balance. If credit card debt was a house party, the minimum payment would be the equivalent of showing up, saying your introductions, and then hiding in the corner for the rest of the night. If you really want to make an impact, you need to be proactive.

It doesn’t have to be twice or thrice the size of your minimum payment. It doesn’t have to be a consistent sum that you pay every month, but it does have to be something. Don’t worry if it’s only 1% or 2% of the balance, because every additional payment helps. Just pay whatever you can afford, whenever you can afford it. A small amount of money today can save you a huge sum of money in the future.

Minimum Payments on a Credit Card is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.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

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