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Helping Japan: How to Make Sure Your Money Goes to the Right Place

Helping Japan: How to Make Sure Your Money Goes to the Right Place

    The events that have unfolded in Japan over the past week are horrifying, sad, and devastating.  The country is facing death and destruction at the hands of a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. Now they are also on the verge of a nuclear disaster.  Many countries and organizations are pledging volunteers, supplies and money to help.  But what about you, average Joe citizen, how can you help?  How can you be sure that your hard-earned money will actually go to the people who need it?  How can you be sure that it will get there as fast as it can, instead of months later?  How can you be sure that half of what you’re giving isn’t going to “administrative” fees?  If you are inclined to donate, please keep the following guide I have created in mind before you write that check, hand over that cash, or push “Send”.

    Finding a Reputable Charity

    One great resource to finding a charity to donate to is CharityNavigator.com.  Using this site, you can search through their database of charities and find one that interests you.  Each charity has star ratings as well as a complete, detailed profile.  Information is included such as the organizations efficacy, how much goes to administrative costs, and so on.  There are also links that will take you to the charity’s site where you can complete your donation.

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    See Where Your Money is Going

    Be wary of the organization that assures you that 100 percent of your donation goes to help the victims or particular effort.  They are likely not being truthful.  Every organization, even charitable non-profits, have some overhead expenses.   To make sure that you get the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to be sure that you avoid middlemen.  Some groups may simply collect the money and then pass it on to more hands-on charities.  Avoid diluting your dollars by giving directly to groups that are already on the ground and helping the victims in Japan.

    Be Skeptical of Offers that Promise to Donate Money for Things You Buy

    Lady Gaga’s heart might be in the right place with the new bracelet she has launched, with all profits going to help the victims in Japan, but you’re really not helping as much as you could.  If your goal is to help and not score some cool gear, you’re better off giving directly to the charity yourself.  The entire cost of that $5 item isn’t going to Japan, only the profits are, and what the company might deem to be “profit” can be kind of sketchy.  From that five dollars, subtract the cost to produce the item, to market it, etc.  If you’re going to spend anyways though, by all means, spend away – at least a portion will go to help.

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    Forget Putting Together Your Own Care Package

    While it might be tempting to put together a “care” package for a needy family in Japan, it’s probably not the best idea.  Right now, infrastructure is severely damaged in some areas, making things like delivering packages impossible.  It’s also a logistical nightmare.  You’re better off giving to a group with people on the ground and a plan in action.

    Reconsider Texting Your Donation

    Making donations through a simple text message became popular during 2010’s massive earthquake in Haiti.  But one thing that a lot of people didn’t seem to know was that there’s a delay between when you send the money by text.  The charities don’t get it for at least 30 days later.  And while Japan will likely need help for many months and years to come, if you are wanting your money to help immediately, it’s better to send them a check or money order by mail.  They’ll get it a lot faster that way.  Even using your debit card or Paypal balance is a lot faster.  Just keep in mind that when you donate digitally, there will be hidden fees taken out of your total donation, so it will get diluted somewhat.

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    Avoid Newly Formed Charities

    Getting a new charity off the ground is a difficult venture in itself.   In the midst of a disaster it’s virtually impossible to succeed.  You wouldn’t trust your life savings to a financial firm that just opened, has no track record, and whose employees have zero experience, so why would you donate to a brand new charity?  Find a charity with a proven history of success, and ideally one that’s already on the ground in Japan helping. Research before you write that check.

    Watch Out for Scams

    In the wake of disasters, it seems that while there are a lot of people willing to help out there are also plenty of unsavory types looking to cash in on your goodwill for their own devious means.  You’re better off sending in your money to an official organization’s address than handing it over to a person going around collecting donations. While they might actually be doing good, there’s a chance they’re just looking to run off with your money.

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    Some Carefully Vetted Charities That I Recommend

    • Doctors Without Borders USA
    • American Red Cross
    • Save the Children
    • Relief International
    • Food for the Hungry
    • Direct Relief International
    • AmeriCares
    • Action Against Hunger
    • Catholic Medical Mission Board
    • World Vision
    • Global Giving
    • International Medical Corps
    • Convoy of Hope
    • Oxfam America

    All of these organizations are have high ratings on CharityNavigator.com, and have people already in place in Japan distributing aid.  You can find additional lists of reputable organizations to give your donation to on their website as well.  If you don’t see a charity listed either on my list here or on their list that’s not to say it’s a scam, but you’ll want to make sure you do your research first.

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    Published on November 20, 2018

    The Best Ways to Save Money Even Impulsive Spenders Can Get Behind

    The Best Ways to Save Money Even Impulsive Spenders Can Get Behind

    The truth is, there are many “money saving guides” online, but most don’t cover the root issue for not saving.

    Once I’d discovered a few key factors that allowed me to save 10k in one year, I realized why most articles couldn’t help me. The problem is that even with the right strategies you can still fail to save money. You need to have the right systems in place and the right mindset.

    In this guide, I’ll cover the best ways to save money — practical yet powerful steps you can take to start saving more. It won’t be easy but with hard work, I’m confident you’ll be able to save more money–even if you’re an impulsive spender.

    Why Your Past Prevents You from Saving Money

    Are you constantly thinking about your financial mistakes?

    If so, these thoughts are holding you back from saving.

    I get it, you wish you could go back in time to avoid your financial downfalls. But dwelling over your past will only rob you from your future. Instead, reflect on your mistakes and ask yourself what lessons you can learn from them.

    It wasn’t easy for me to accept that I had accumulated thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Once I did, I started heading in the right direction. Embrace your past failures and use them as an opportunity to set new financial goals.

    For example, after accepting that you’re thousands of dollars in debt create a plan to be debt free in a year or two. This way when you’ll be at peace even when you get negative thoughts about your finances. Now you can focus more time on saving and less on your past financial mistakes.

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    How to Effortlessly Track Your Spending

    Stop manually tracking your spending.

    Leverage powerful analytic tools such as Personal Capital and these money management apps to do the work for you. This tool has worked for me and has kept me motivated to why I’m saving in the first place. Once you login to your Personal Capital dashboard, you’re able to view your net worth.

    When I’d first signed up with Personal Capital, I had a negative net worth, but this motivated me to save more. With this tool, you can also view your spending patterns, expenses, and how much money you’re saving.

    Use your net worth as your north star to saving more. Whenever you experience financial setbacks, view how far you’ve come along. Saving money is only half the battle, being consistent is the other half.

    The Truth on Why You Keep Failing

    Saving money isn’t sexy. If it was, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

    Some people are natural savers, but most are impulsive spenders. Instead of denying that you’re an impulsive spender, embrace it.

    Don’t try to save 60 to 70% of your income if this means you’ll live a miserable life. Saving money isn’t a race but a marathon. You’re saving for retirement and for large purchases.

    If you’re currently having a hard time saving, start spending more money on nice things. This may sound counterintuitive but hear me out. Wouldn’t it be better to save $200 each month for 12 months instead of $500 for 3 months?

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    Most people run into trouble because they create budgets that set them up for failure. This system won’t work for those who are frugal, but chances are they don’t need help saving. This system is for those who can’t save money and need to be rewarded for their hard work.

    Only because you’re buying nice things doesn’t mean that you’ll save less. Here are some rules you should have in place:

    1. Save more than 50% of your available money (after expenses)
    2. Only buy nice things after saving
    3. Automate your savings with automatic bank transfers

    These are the same rules that helped me save thousands each year while buying the latest iPhone. Focus only on items that are important to you. Remember, you can afford anything but not everything.

    How to Foolproof Yourself out of Debt

    Personal finance is a game. On one end, you’re earning money; and on the to other, you’re saving. But what ends up counting in the end isn’t how much you earn but how much you save. Research shows that about 60% of Americans spend more than they save.[1]

    So how can you separate yourself from the 60%?

    By not accumulating more debt. This way you’ll have more money to save and avoid having more financial obligations. A great way to stop accumulating debt is using cash to pay for all your transactions.

    This will be challenging, depending on how reliant you are with your credit card, but it’s worth the effort. Not only will you stop accruing debt, but you’ll also be more conscious with what you buy.

    For example, you’ll think twice about purchasing a new $200 headphone despite having the cash to buy them. According to a poll conducted by The CreditCards.com, 5 out of 6 Americans are impulsive spenders.[2]

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    Telling yourself that you’ll have the discipline to not buy things won’t cut it. This is equal to having junk food in your fridge while trying to eat healthy–it’s only a matter of time before you slip. By using cash to make your purchases, you’ll spend less and save more.

    A Proven Formula to Skyrocket Your Savings

    Having proven systems in place to help you save more is important, but they’re not the best way to save money.

    You can search for dozens of ways to save money, but there’ll always be a limit. Instead of spending the majority of your effort saving, look for ways to increase your income. The truth is that once you have the right systems in place, saving is easy.

    What’s challenging is earning more money. There are many routes you can take to achieve this. For example, you can work long and hard at your current job to earn a raise. But there’s one problem–you’re depending on someone else to give you a raise.

    Your company will have to have the budget, and you’ll have to know how to toot your own horn to get this raise. This isn’t to say that earning a raise is impossible, but things are better when you’re in control right? That’s why building a side-hustle is the best way to increase your income.

    Think of your side-hustle as a part-time job doing something you enjoy. You can sell items on eBay for a profit, or design websites for small businesses. Building a side-hustle will be on the hardest things you’ll do, be too stubborn to quit.

    During the early stages, you won’t be making money and that’s okay. Since you already have a source of income, you won’t be dependent on your side-hustle to pay for your expenses. Depending on how much time you invest in your side-hustle, it can one day replace your current income.

    Whatever route you take, focus more on earning and save as much as possible. You have more control than you give yourself credit for.

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    Transform Yourself into a Saving Money Machine

    Saving money isn’t complicated but it’s one of the hardest things you’ll do.

    By learning from your mistakes and rewarding yourself after saving you’ll save more. What would you do with an extra $200 or $500 each month? To some, this is life-changing money that can improve the quality of their lives.

    The truth is saving money is an art. Save too much and you’ll quit, but save too little and you’ll pay for the consequences in the future. Saving money takes effort and having the right systems in place.

    Imagine if you’d started saving an extra $100 this next month? Or, saved $20K in one year? Although it’s hard to imagine, this can be your reality if you follow the principles covered in this guide.

    Take a moment to brainstorm which goals you’d be able to reach if you had extra money each month. Use these goals as motivation to help you stay on track on your journey to saving more. If I was able to save thousands of dollars with little guidance, imagine what you’ll be able to do.

    What are you waiting for? Go and start saving money, the sky is your limit.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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