Tips for putting together a summer wardrobe on a budget

With warm weather here and hotter temperatures on the way, you may be thinking your summer wardrobe is a little out-of-date and needs refreshing. But building a new wardrobe on a budget can be difficult. Fortunately, a summer wardrobe can be the least expensive of all the seasons (those heavy coats can be so pricey). Here are a few tips to help you keep costs under control.

Shop at home first

First of all, look in your own closet first before you rush out and spend any money. You may be surprised to find exactly what you are looking for hiding among long-forgotten pieces in the back. It’s also a good time to evaluate what would give you the most bang for your buck. Maybe you have an abundance of pieces of a certain color and adding another complementary color will give you multiple new looks.

Don’t forget that you can actually summerize some of your cold weather clothing. You can easily shorten sleeve length. Just use a contrasting thread when hemming the sleeve, or add lace or a cuff. And cutoffs aren’t just for jeans. If you have some trousers that are fraying, turn them into shorts or capris. Or take a blouse and make a sleeveless shirt.

Try alternate shopping options

crew-59380Consignment shops are an excellent option for budget shopping because you can bring in clothes you want to get rid of and get store credit to exchange for newer clothes, accessories and shoes. Don’t forget thrift stores either. You can often find designer clothing in great condition there.

Another great idea is to host a clothing swap with family, friends and neighbors. Everyone brings a bag of clothing they want to offload and takes turns selecting items they want for their wardrobe. You get the benefits of “thrift store” shopping in your own home, while enjoying hanging out with friends and family.

Okay, now hit the shops

i-m-priscilla-228220Remember that when you do hit the retail stores, start at the back. The displays at the front and center are tempting, but they’re also expensive. Head toward the back first where the sales and clearance items are and make your way forward. Fall clothes start appearing in retail shops in July. Between Memorial Day and Independence Day you will see summer styles become discounted. That still leaves quite a bit of time to enjoy your new shorts before the temperatures drop.

And, as always, don’t forget to set a budget and stick to it. But the most important advice is to enjoy your summer, new wardrobe or not.

Have the right financial talks at the right relationship time

If your idea of first date chitchat includes “I’m aggressively paying down $65K in student loans” or “I don’t believe in sharing groceries,” you probably don’t have a lot of second dates.

Nonetheless, once you do click with someone and you can see the possibility of a future together, you’re going to have to talk about money. Because “I have terrible credit but still go to Paris every year” is an even worse conversation to be a part of, especially after you’ve signed a lease together.

When you become “exclusive.”

If you’ve gotten to the point where neither one of you is interested in seeing anyone else, that means a lot of time together. Even if you’re the kind of couple that stays home and watches a lot of Netflix, you’re going to have to decide who pays for the Internet and pizza.

Questions you need to ask each other: Who pays for dinner and a movie on date nights? How often and important are date nights going to be, anyway? What does a great vacation together look like, and who pays if you want to go camping and your partner wants to go to Prague?

Even if you’re in agreement on paying your own way for entertainment, are you comfortable with someone who spends more than $50 a on bar tabs, video games or clothes every week but doesn’t save that much? At this point, not your problem. Until…

When it starts to get “serious.”

If you’re starting to really consider a future together, your partner’s spending and saving habits gradually become your business. So does that person’s debt. And it cuts both ways.

If one or both partners carry a large debt load, it’s reasonable to expect that a plan to pay it off is in place. It’s time to talk about your financial habits. Are you the kind who keeps bills organized and sticks to a budget, or are you a little more freewheeling? If you’re not the same kind of spenders, can you see a way to work together someday?

This is also the time to talk about your future career paths and whether they might cause conflicts of time or geography in the years to come. Does your dream job exist only in Dubai? Or will you be living here but working 70 hours a week? Are you going to take a huge risk by starting your own business?

Before your first shared “life event” together.

For some couples, it means planning a wedding. For others, it’s buying a house or having a baby. Basically, it means you’re all in, with all your financial chips at stake.

Figure out what’s yours, what’s your partner’s, what’s shared and what would happen if you split up. Sit down and figure out how to merge bank accounts, if at all.

Some couples work well with a shared checking account for the household and separate individual accounts. Unless you have identical salaries, you’ll have to agree on an equation to figure out what goes into the joint account, what goes into savings and what is left over for discretionary spending.

Some couples are content to put everything in one bucket, but that doesn’t mean you get to stop talking about money. For example, ask your partner, “How much would you be comfortable spending on impulse without checking with me first?”

If you say $50 and hear $200, you can split the difference. If you say $50 and hear $5,000, you have some serious talking to do.

Most importantly, sit down and agree on lifetime money goals. When do you want to retire? How are you going to get there? What does that mean for your lifestyle in the meantime?

Couples can figure out how to merge even drastically different budgeting styles, even if it takes a few sessions with a financial counselor and a commitment to open communication.

It’s always much easier to figure out these things before you sign a mortgage or say your vows. Money is the leading cause of conflict in relationships and takes down more marriages than cheating. Talking about money can be hard, but you’ll be glad you did.

Get lower prices – on stuff you’ve already bought

For some people, shopping is fun. Finding deals is even better. Even if you’re not a big believer in retail therapy, you feel a certain satisfaction when you finally locate and purchase a pair of pants that actually fits, right?

Until the same pants go on sale the next week. Then those trousers that seemed like a good deal at $40 feel like a rip-off. If only you’d waited! You could have had them for $25! Now your new pants are tainted, and you’ll stew over that $15 every time you wear them.

Don’t fret. You can get that money back. Here’s how.

The direct approach

If you see that the price on a recent purchase has been lowered, go directly to the retailer. Many large retailers – such as Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Wal-Mart and Best Buy – will honor price adjustments if you have a printed receipt or online order number. Most stores will match a competitor’s prices before you buy, but only their own afterward. Target is an exception: They’ll match other stores’ prices for two weeks after purchase.

If you booked a hotel room and saw the price go down, call the hotel and ask to have your bill adjusted to the lower rate. Or, if you won’t face fees, you can cancel your reservation and book again.

The plastic approach

Some credit cards – not all – offer another option called price protection. If your card has price protection, you’ll have to do a little legwork to use it. You’ll probably have to register items after you buy them with your card, then fill out a form after any price drop to get the difference back. Discover customers can receive up to $500 back on items, while Citi’s Price Rewind searches online sites for you in search of lowered prices.

Price protection involves a lot of fine print. You usually have to initiate the process within 60 days, but sometimes you get 90. Get ready for exclusions galore, too. To help you navigate the waters, NerdWallet has a handy breakdown of cards and their price protection features.

The app approach

It sure would be nice if you could scour stores for lower prices without wasting a bunch of time and developing carpal tunnel. Luckily, this is 2017 and there’s an app for that.

It’s called Paribus. Here’s how it works.

After you sign up using your email and your established online shopping accounts, Paribus’ clever little e-detectives scan and monitor your incoming receipts looking for any money that was left on the table. Paribus doesn’t just look for lowered prices and sales. It even knows whether you’ve missed a coupon.

For every discrepancy found, Paribus can submit a claim on your behalf. Then, the money you’re owed, minus a 25 percent commission – goes back into your shopping account.

Paribus involves the least amount of hassle, but it only works on online buys. Everything else requires you to pay close attention to sales and fill out some tiresome forms. But when it comes to bigger purchases, you could be looking at real money. So keep your eyes peeled, and never feel ashamed for demanding the best price.

 

 

 

 

7 Ways to Save $2,000 for Your Summer Vacation

The best vacations are debt-free. Here’s how to save for one.

Sometimes, you need a real vacation. Not just a weekend camping at the lake or a road trip to Grandma’s cabin – a real getaway. It can be hard to justify a spendy trip when you have to save for retirement or pay off student loans, but with a nip here and a tuck there, you can remake your budget without too much pain. And at the end, with the worries of home far away, you’ll be glad you did.

Make a budget.

Sit down with everyone who’s going on the trip and figure out everyone’s priorities. Take into account transportation, lodging and food, of course – but don’t stop there. Familiarize everyone with your destination’s main attractions. You don’t want to get all the way there before you find out those aquarium tickets are $75 at the door and it’s the only reason Aunt Sally wanted to go.

Use your tax refund to start a savings account.

Most American families get more than $1,000 back from the federal government every year. Instead of blowing that money, start a separate account devoted to vacation savings. You’ll have fun watching it grow while you get excited for your trip.

Change your direct deposit.

Yeah, it can be a pain, but take the time to fill out a new direct deposit form with your employer. Socking away $50 to $100 from every paycheck into your new vacation savings account will add up fast.

Side note: If your tax refund was huge, you might be able to offset the effect of saving more by just altering your withholding. A giant refund means you’ve been giving the government an interest-free loan.

Make up for that extra savings.

The idea of a vacation fund is that you don’t have to loot it for funds. So you’ll have to make some sacrifices. You might consider a monthlong spending freeze, where you don’t spend on anything except necessities like food and gas. Get tips on weathering a freeze here.

Meal planning is another good way to save. If you look at how much you spend on food every month, you might be shocked. So eliminate those takeout lunches and pizza deliveries for a while. Dust off your cookbooks, examine your pantry, and make a plan every week before grocery shopping. You’ll save a ton, and you might even look better in your swimsuit when it’s time to hit the beach.

Get everyone involved with earning and saving.

If you’re taking kids or teens on your jaunt, tell them their souvenir and shopping budget for the trip is their responsibility. They can mow the lawn, babysit, organize the garage – all the stuff they got paid for before, only now that cash goes into the vacation fund.

Don’t underestimate how much money you could earn by having a garage sale or putting outgrown toys and furniture up for sale online, either. You’ll just be freeing up more space for vacation memories.

Use the right credit card.

If you’re flying to your dream destination, consider a credit card with a rewards program that pays off in airline miles. Use the card to buy gas and grocerrosan-harmens-18418.jpgies, then pay it off every month while the miles rack up. Just make sure you can use those miles when you actually want to – and that the affiliated carriers go where you want to go.

Book in advance.

This vacation is happening, right? So book it. You’ll get better deals on airfare, hotels and tickets to big attractions like museums. Sometimes, getting early passes to theme parks lets you cruise past long lines like a VIP. And forgetting to pre-book tickets to some in-demand attractions means you just won’t get to go.

The fastest and best way to pay off big credit card debt

credit-card-cut-upWhat’s the best way to pay down a large credit card balance as quickly as possible? All while paying the least amount of interest and not hurting your credit? Glad you asked.

First, understand that the sooner you pay down the principal, the sooner you erase debt. For example, if you owe $10,000 on a credit card and pay $200 a month, $150 of your payment goes toward paying interest. Only $50 goes toward paying down the $10,000 principal (based on an annual APR of 18%).

At this rate, it would take 94 months to pay off your debt, while costing you a whopping $8,622 in interest! That’s an uphill battle everyone should avoid.

Luckily, credit card companies, competing with one another, actually make it easy for consumers. By simply leveraging their special introductory rate programs, you can be on your way to paying down that 10K in no time.

Find a new credit card offer with a zero percent introductory balance transfer – one of the best deals in personal finance. Many banks offer these cards, which today are the strongest promos and longest zero percent APR intro periods since before the 2008 financial crisis. So, apply for one of these cards. Once you’re approved, immediately transfer all your credit card debt to the new card.

Need help finding an offer? Here’s a list of zero percent APR credit cards (with terms).

Once you’ve transferred your balances, it’s time to capitalize on the interest-free period to really break free of debt. And it’s so simple. Just keep paying the same amount you were paying your old high-interest card, only now to the new no-interest card. Now you’re paying off principal at 100 percent.

Pay attention to the terms because once the introductory period is over (typically 12-18 months) the interest rate could actually be higher than your original card. Use this period to pay down as much of your debt as possible.

Stop getting crushed on interest. And start planning that going-away party for your debt. Move your high-interest balances to a zero percent interest card now.

Your wedding can be beautiful on a smaller budget

Planning a wedding can be equal parts maddening and intoxicating. The possibilities are endless – and gorgeous, when you start looking at décor and dresses and flowers …

It’s easy to see how things can get out of hand. But it’s just not a good idea to go deep into debt for one weekend’s worth of celebration. After those initial conversations about who’s going to pay and how much, you can set a budget and start figuring out what’s truly important to you and what your guests will really remember.

Just a few areas where you might encounter sticker shock (and how to prevent it):

The venue: Can you believe that some places charge up to $30,000 to get married there? That’s a down payment on a house. Or a car. Or two cars.eric-alves-145943.jpg

There’s no rule that says you have to get married in a church and have your reception in an event hall. Think outside the box a little. Make a list of places that have significance for you as a couple.

People get hitched on the porches of family homes, in parks and at lakes, in underground caves, at wildlife refuges and theme parks, in museum sculpture gardens, on covered bridges, at railway depots and botanical gardens. Just make sure you get a permit to keep your nontraditional venue legal.

The dress: There is no law stating that brides have to gather an entourage, try on white dresses and twirl around until their credit cards are maxed out.

You don’t even have to go to a bridal salon if you don’t want to. Stores like White House, Black Market carry lovely formal pieces. Look for white dresses during prom season at department stores. Online retailer BHLDN is disrupting the market by offering couture design for around a grand.

You can also stalk trunk shows and end-of-season sample sales, and comb through sites like OnceWed.com to take advantage of other brides’ rejected or lightly used dresses. If you fall in love with a dress that fits you well in a bridal salon, see if you can buy the sample.

If you do order a dress, keep alterations to a minimum by buying the right silhouette for your body type and ordering your real size. Corset-backed dresses are great for keeping alteration costs down.

The flowers: If you come up with something else to put in the middle of your tables, you could save yourself thousands. Spend your flower money on the bride bouquet, and think of something creative for the rest of the wedding party to carry, like feathered fans, beaded purses or a beautifully wrapped book that is meaningful to you.

The photography: Wedding photographers earn their money, but you have other options. Photojournalists frequently make extra money on the weekends shooting weddings, as do college students in art and photo programs. Some couples book ceremony-only packages and let their guests crowdsource the reception photography with disposable cameras.

Music: Unless you’re really committed to the chicken dance, you can save money by not hiring a DJ. A playlist of your favorite tunes and a friend with a laptop will do just as well, without entrusting the personality of your reception to a stranger.

Wedding planners who share wisdom online point to sit-down dinners, programs and favors as the most overlooked and unappreciated extras that couples waste money on. Your guests will remember your vows and remember the personal touches you bring to make your reception a great gathering, whether it’s a more toned-down family affair or a raucous party with an open bar.

Once you sit down and figure out your priorities, you’ll determine where to best spend your money – even if it’s on the honeymoon.

 

Eight great ways parents pass along financial success

Tommy Jr. has his dad’s home run swing and your love of gardening. Lorelei got your love of baking, but also your less-than-ideal kitchen cleanup tendencies.

On their road to becoming full-fledged individuals, kids start off by taking parts of you. It shows in the things you pass down, whether you mean to or not. Hopefully, all your kids will get your savvy saving habits. Money: You can’t be an adult without it.

Families pass down financial habits, just like football Sundays and rib recipes. If you ask parents what they most wish to bequeath to their children, a responsible attitude about money is usually at the top of the list.

But all families are different, so those “inherent inheritances” take different forms. Some of the most common:

Aim for the 80/20 split.

Live on 80 percent of what you make and save the remaining 20 percent. A less specific form of this philosophy goes by the title “Spend Less Than You Earn.” As long as you follow this philosophy, major financial disasters can be avoided.

Credit card debt is poison.

Don’t put more on cards than you can pay off every month, or you’re letting Borgia-strength financial toxins into your life. Think of interest payments as flushing fistfuls of cash down the toilet. Until it clogs, and you have to pay the plumber with a credit card, too.

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Keep an ace in the hole.

The people hit hardest by recessions or job losses are those who were already living paycheck to paycheck. Those who keep six months’ worth of bill-paying emergency funds stashed away in a savings account sleep better at night, even if they never have to use it.

It’s not about stuff.

Life is about experiences, not the pursuit of material goods. If you’ve got good friends and a blanket in the sun, you’re richer than everyone standing in line for the latest gaming console or smartphone.

Except when it’s about stuff.

If there’s something you really want, it will be there tomorrow. Sleep on it. Sometimes, 24 hours of perspective takes the shine off impulse purchases. If you still want something after saving the money for it, go ahead. Just try not to assume debt for luxuries.

Have a plan for any and all stuff.

When it’s time to make a big purchase – or even a weekly grocery store trip – don’t put yourself in danger of making impulsive decisions. Research cars thoroughly before wandering through a lot filled with temptation. Try on leather jackets at several different stores. Above all, make lists.

Don’t pass up free money.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but employer matching funds to retirement savings come pretty close. As soon as you get a full-time job that allows you to contribute to a 401(k), put in enough to maximize your company’s matching funds. Even if it hurts. It’s like picking up $100 bills on the sidewalk that never belonged to anyone.

Productivity is its own reward.

Happy people attack their jobs with gusto. Even the superrich keep themselves busy with creative pursuits or charity work. The more you think of your job as a chance to be rewarded for true accomplishments, the more successful your career will be.

If these sound similar to adult-focused money-management tips you’ve heard, that’s no coincidence. After all, kiddos absorb most of their values through example. That’s why your admonitions about eating healthy ring hollow if you’re clumsily stashing Oreos all over the house.

Want to pass on good habits? Just make sure you’re following your own advice.

Making the Down Payment

Buying a house is part of the American dream. But for most, the biggest roadblock to that dream is coming up with a down payment. Many lenders require five percent down. If you can put that together, you’ll have a much easier time getting approved.

The problem is, that kind of money is hard to come by for first-time buyers. The average price for a house in Boone County is $152,500 according to Zillow. Buyers would need $7,625 for the average Boone County household. And that doesn’t even include added homebuying expenses like closing costs and pre-paid items such as taxes and insurance.

Saving that much can take years. And for renters facing rising rent, health costs and more, it can be hard to save anything at all.

The good news is, there are several programs designed to help you become a homeowner with as little as 3 percent down. The Federal Housing Administration, for example, helps homebuyers, especially first-time buyers, get approved. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-sponsored companies that drive the residential mortgage credit market, also offer low down payments. And if you’re an active or retired service member, or live in a rural area, you may have access to zero down payment programs through the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program.

Sounds like an easy decision, right? Sure, but don’t skip the fine print. A lower down payment makes you a bigger risk in the eyes of some lenders. So you’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) and you’ll likely pay a higher interest rate for the life of the loan, in addition to other fees.

Shop around and find an experienced mortgage lender that can provide good advice on your down payment options. Lenders are required to disclose all fees so you can compare easily. Plus, the more you explore your options, the more you’ll learn about the process.

2017 Tax Breaks That Will Impact Your 2018 Return

Fortunately your taxes aren’t due. Not yet. You have until April 18 to file your 2016 tax return if you haven’t done so. For most of us (4 out of 5 of us, according to the IRS), a refund is waiting. This is largely because the IRS offers a variety of tax deductions, exceptions and credits to lower your tax bill. Many of these are adjusted for inflation, so they often change from year to year.

Tax year 2017 has several annual inflationary adjustments to consider. Here’s a breakdown of some key changes to help you plan for your taxes. Keep in mind that these are for the 2017 tax year – they’re not rates you’ll use to prepare your 2016 returns.

The big change for everyone is in the individual income tax brackets, which have been adjusted for inflation. They’re typically adjusted so you can earn more without moving into a higher tax bracket. Inflation has been nominal, so there wasn’t a significant shift upwards in the tax schedule. Still, if you were on the cusp, it’s good to be aware of where you might be now. You can see 2017 tax bracket tables here.

More good news is that your standard deduction will go up a smidge in 2017. Individual filers and heads of households will receive a standard deduction of $6,350 and $9,350, respectively, up $50 from 2016. Couples filing jointly get a $100 year-over-year bump to $12,700 in 2017. This may not seem like much but anything that will reduce your tax liability without you having to do a thing is money in the bank.

There are several other important changes that may also affect your taxes, including that traditional and Roth IRA phaseouts will be adjusted higher and health saving accounts (HSA) contributions have increased for individuals. You can find more detailed information about those and other changes here. Please see your tax advisor to determine how this information may apply to you.

20 Valentine’s Day Gifts Under $20

Ahhh, Valentine’s Day. The pressure-filled holiday of over-priced flowers and chocolates. Alas, never fear. We’ve scoured the internet to find 20 gifts under $20 for your honey.

Love Icon Gummy Candies – $9.

Kate Spade Thermos – $18

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Heart Shaped Twinkle Lights – $12

Men’s I heart you socks – $10

Keeper Trinket Tray – $6

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Snuggle is Real Shirt – $6

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What I Love About You Journal – $12

Heart Print Trunks – 8 fancy Euros

Tie pins – $13

Onward Vegan Key Ring – $18

ColourPop Lip Matte – $6

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Yoda One For Me Mug – $13

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Love You To the Moon Wood Décor – $16

I Pick You, Personalized Guitar Pick -$9

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Compliment Card Set – $13

Honest Love, Customizable V-Day Card – $0

Tub of Now & Laters – $14

Heart Throw Pillow – $15

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Love Struck Candle – $10

Trusty coupon book of favors – $0