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Five Quick Money Tips for the New Year

Five Quick Money Tips for the New Year

Depending on your point of view, a glance at the calendar these days can elicit one of two responses: relief that 2016 is finally coming to an end, or panic that you have yet to set resolutions for 2017. While goals related to weight loss and health tend to be most popular each year, the hope to get a better hold on finances usually isn’t far behind. If you’re one of the many Americans looking to change their money-wasting ways in the coming year, here are a few quick tips for you.

Have a budget and stick to it.

Perhaps the single biggest personal finance mistake that many of us make is spending without tracking our purchases. Although just striving to keep your bank account in the black may work for a little while, it doesn’t leave room for error, not to mention emergency. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to create a real budget for yourself.

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Luckily, this process has now been made less painful as several apps (e.g. Mint, YNAB, and GoodBudget) allow you to set spending limits and will automatically categorize your purchases for you. Of course, you can always keep a spreadsheet of your own as well or use one as a backup. Lastly, if your addiction to plastic is really getting the best of you, try using the old school envelope method where you put cash (yes, cash) into folders labeled with each category of spending. Once your cash is gone, that’s it. You’ll quickly learn what areas you need to work on.

Up your 401(k) contribution.

With another year over, you are now another year older. Sorry to bum you out but it’s important to consider. Even though retirement might seem like an eternity from now, the truth is that you still need to be saving for it. One of the best ways to do that is by contributing to a 401(k).

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What’s great about 401(k)s is that in many cases your employer will match a certain percentage of the contributions you make and might also offer profit sharing. If you’re not taking advantage of this “free money,” you really should be. In fact, now is a great time to change your withholdings as open enrollment traditionally takes place at the beginning of each year.

Save more on your purchases by planning ahead and getting creative.

Impulse buying can lead not only to some ill-advised purchases but could also cause you to spend more than you need to. There are several ways to save money on the things you buy, but most of them involve planning.

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As someone who visits the mall on a weekly basis, one my favorite ways to save is to find an item I want, set a target price I’d be willing to pay for it, and then wait until it is marked down enough for me to buy. While that may be time-consuming, running a Google search for a coupon code before buying something online is super-fast and oftentimes very effective in helping you reach that important target price. Lastly, don’t forget to be creative and use loyalty offers, credit card rewards, and regular old coupons to your advantage— even all at once!

Start an emergency fund.

Speaking of planning, if 2016 taught us anything, it’s that the unexpected can happen. That’s why having an emergency fund is paramount to ensuring your financial security. Furthermore, in addition to having enough saved up to cover three to six months of essential bills should you lose your job, you might also want to consider having a separate fund for things like car repairs. With these savings in place, you’ll be able to make it through tough financial times without resorting to credit cards. If the worst does happen, you’ll be very thankful you were prepared.

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Consider a side hustle.

Obviously saving money is a big part of personal finance, but so is making money. Luckily, thanks to the Internet, you can now monetize more possessions, talents, goods, and services than ever before. As a result, maybe it’s time you considered pursuing a side hustle of your own. Whether that means blogging about your passions, using some of your free time to drive people around town, selling items you create yourself, or renting/selling items you don’t need, you may be surprised by what you can do and what you could earn. Why not give it a shot?

Happy New Year, everyone — here’s to a great 2017!

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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

30 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much

30 Fun Things You Can Do This Summer Without Spending Much

Summertime can be a real strain on your wallet. The sun is out, there are people to see, places to be; it’s no wonder you might be short of funds during these sunny months. Not everything has to cost you an arm and a leg.

Take some time to go through this list of 20 cheap summer activities and make some realistic goals to complete as many as you can.

Video Summary

1. Visit a strawberry festival

Summer is prime time for tasting strawberries. More often than not, an area that grows strawberries will have a strawberry festival. Indulge yourself in strawberry pies, jams, cakes and more!

2. Have a picnic

Take your partner or your family to the local park and enjoy a relaxing picnic. Designate each person to bring one food item of their choice to add to the fun.

3. Camp in your back yard

    The summer heat can sometimes make it hard to sleep. Why not enjoy the heat outside in the yard? Pitch a tent or gaze into the night sky.

    4. Take long walks

    Discover something new where you live. Take the afternoon off from your chores and go for a long walk. You may be surprised by what you discover.

    5. Break a world record

    Breaking a world record doesn’t have to be time-consuming. You could even break one on your lunch hour. Give it a go!

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    6. Go on a bike ride

    The number of bike paths on roads in big cities has increased dramatically over the years. Take advantage, and enjoy the summer breeze.

    7. Join a gym class

      The gym is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but why not go with a friend a join a class? Spinning, yoga and step classes are always more fun with friends, and a lot of gyms allow you to pay-as-you-go.

      8. Find a new hobby

      The summer is the perfect time to find a new hobby. Serotonin (our body’s natural “happy” hormone) is produced by the sunshine and will be at a yearly high, which is great for when we want to tackle something new.

      9. Join a sports team

      Not all sports teams are competitive and require huge amounts of your time. Join in the fun with like-minded people, get fit, stay healthy and make some friends along the way.

      10. Make a slip ‘n slide

        Gather your friends, some plastic sheeting, a hose, washing up liquid if desired, and make a huge slip ‘n slide just like these guys. Granted, yours won’t be as big, but you get the idea… it’s fun!

        11. Make a treasure hunt for your kids

        Today’s digital world sees our children more often than not playing inside than outside. Why not create a sense of adventure by making a treasure hunt? Only rule? It has to be outside.

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        12. Visit a free festival

        Towns and cities are awash with free festivals, with themes from film to science. Scout your local area and discover something new.

        13. Visit the zoo

          Let’s face it: we love animals. While browsing news websites and social media networks you’re bound to come across a few pictures of cats. Take a trip to your local zoo for a better experience.

          14. Take a road trip

          Enjoy the open road with a few friends and take a road trip somewhere–anywhere. Just go out and enjoy the sunshine!

          15. Play ultimate frisbee in the park

            Frisbee is always great fun down the park, but why not turn it into more of a competitive sport by playing ultimate frisbee?

            16. Make your own ice cream

            Ice cream is a very versatile dessert. Make a sandwich, enjoy a cone, or simply just enjoy a bowl full. Better yet, making your own ice cream allows you to create any flavor you want.

            17. Invite your neighbors over for a BBQ

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              When was the last time you invited your neighbors over? Do you even know them? Now’s your chance. Just ask each person to bring a food item so costs don’t mount up for you.

              18. Get a summer job

              For many students, summer is the time for relaxation and fun. But who said earning money and being productive isn’t fun? You only get out what you put into a situation.

              19. Attend a charity event

              Attending a charity event is a great way to raise funds and awareness for a cause, meet new people, and generally have a good time. Search for your local charity event today.

              20. Visit a national park

              National parks are a great way to explore nature and learn something new. You could even volunteer and make a difference in helping restore natural habitats.

              21. Visit your local comedy club

                Local comedy clubs are extremely underrated. They are cheap to attend and no doubt you’ll have a barrel of laughs.

                22. Make your own hammock

                  Hammocks are very relaxing, are perfect for summer afternoons and are surprisingly easy to make.

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                  23. Read in your new hammock

                  Now you have your very own hammock, the only thing left to do is enjoy it. Grab your favorite book and read to your heart’s content.

                  24. Watch a movie outside

                  Movies are great. Relaxing outside in the evening is great. Put them together and you’ve got a perfect combination. In D.C, Maryland and Virginia this summer, for example, you can enjoy a huge number of movies outside.

                  25. Take a hike

                    Hikes are a great way to keep fit and see more of Mother Nature. There are countless trails available for you to explore. Why not try some this summer?

                    26. Learn how to fly a kite

                    As a child, you probably had a kite and haven’t touched it since. Why not dust it off and attempt to fly it? It’s tricky, but well worth the challenge.

                    27. Work out at the park

                    American cities are full of parks with ample space for a work out session. No doubt you’ll be happier to work out in the sun rather than a crowded gym.

                    28. Take your dog to the beach

                      One of the many joys of owning a dog is taking him or her for long walks during the summertime. This joy is enhanced when visiting the beach, for both you and your dog.

                      29. Make a summer smoothie

                      Healthy, delicious and perfect for the summer. Not only that, there are countless recipes ready for you to try.

                      30. Attend a free yoga session at the beach

                      No experience needed and all skill levels are welcome. Take yourself and a buddy down to the beach and try some yoga. You’ve got nothing to lose!

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