Bathroom Cleaning Hacks: The 25 Best Tricks of All Time

We use our bathrooms every single day, so it’s extremely important to keep them clean.

Not only is it nicer to look at, but a clean bathroom is also better for your health as you won’t be inhaling as many dust particles that trigger allergies or dealing with harmful mold. But where to begin? Here are 25 bathroom cleaning hacks to keep your bathroom neat and squeaky-clean.

1. Use vinegar as a natural glass cleaner

This is the easiest of all of our bathroom cleaning hacks. Instead of grabbing a bottle of commercial glass cleaner, use white vinegar. Apply it the same way you would any other glass cleaner — just spray it on, then wipe it down. There are no harmful chemicals or unknown ingredients — just vinegar.

2. Wipe down mirrors with newspapers

Recycle your old newspapers by using them to wipe down your glass and mirrors. Use them in place of paper towels or cleaning rags to get a streak-free shine that won’t leave behind as many dust particles.

A mirror fogged up with condensation from the shower bathroom cleaning hacksA mirror fogged up with condensation from the shower bathroom cleaning hacks

3. Keep mirrors from fogging with shaving foam

If you’re tired of your mirror fogging up from a hot shower, use shaving foam to keep it from happening altogether. Spray some of the foam onto the mirror and use your hand to rub it all over. Use a towel and wipe it away using circular motions until the mirror looks clean. This will stop mirror fog for a couple of weeks. When it stops working again, reapply!

4. DIY a drain cleaning solution

Bathroom drains can slowly become clogged with dirt, hair, and even soap residue. You can do a quick, easy, affordable drain cleaning with baking soda, vinegar and hot water.

Pour a small pot of boiling water down the drain, then one cup of baking soda. Mix together a cup of vinegar and a cup of water and add it, too. Wait about 10 minutes, then dump another pot of boiling water down the drain to rinse everything away.

Even if a drain seems fine, don’t wait until its completely clogged before you clean it. Performing this every few weeks will keep it from ever getting clogged and causing more serious plumbing issues later on.

5. Get rid of toilet stains with soda

Toilets can get some serious stains over time and some of them are difficult to clean. Rid your toilet of stains with coke. You can actually use coke to clean your toilet just by pouring it in, letting it sit for a few minutes and scrubbing it with a toilet brush. No more stains!

Black and white title floor in a white bathroom with plants. Black and white title floor in a white bathroom with plants.

6. Vacuum before and after

Start off your cleaning by vacuuming as many surfaces as possible to remove dust and hair. This will make it much easier when you scrub things down or wipe them off. Once you’ve done all of your cleanings, finish off with the vacuum again to pick up anything that’s been left behind.

7. Unclog faucets and showerheads with a bag of vinegar

If you have hard water, it can build up on your faucets and showerhead and keep water from flowing out of them normally. Tie a plastic bag of vinegar around your faucets and showerhead and let it sit for a few hours to remove hard water buildup, then just rinse them off with water!

8. Use lemon to eliminate watermarks on faucets

Faucets can easily accumulate stubborn watermarks on them, which can look pretty bad. Slice up a lemon and rub it all over your faucets to shine them and eliminate any hard watermarks that have built up.

9. Skewer away gunk in tough to reach places

There are some places that are hard to completely clean and gunk will build gradually over time — think about the base of your toilet where it meets the floor or around the base of the faucet where it meets the counter.

To get into those crevices, use a wooden skewer with a rag over it. Use whatever cleaning product you prefer and wipe or scrub it away with your skewer and rag.

Four different types of soaps in a bath tub or shower. Four different types of soaps in a bath tub or shower.

10. Remove soap scum with cooking spray

Have you ever tried to wipe down your shower or bathtub only to find that after your first motion, you’ve got a rag covered in a thick goop? Soap scum is difficult to clean and fully remove if you’re not using the right cleaning methods. One easy way of dealing with soap scum is cooking spray.

Cover your bathtub or shower with cooking spray and let it permeate the soap scum for about 10 minutes. Then, just rinse it off with hot water. No more soap scum and no goopy rags!

11. Brighten grout lines with bleach

No matter how many times you wipe down tile, the grout lines never seem to get any cleaner. Make a concentrated effort by using bleach to brighten the grout. You can either dilute bleach with water in a spray bottle and cover grout lines or grab a bleach pen. Let the bleach product sit for a few minutes, then wipe or mop it away to reveal whiter grout lines.

Essential oils with flowers laid out. Essential oils with flowers laid out.

12. Deodorize with rice and essential oils

For obvious reasons, bathrooms can end up having some weird smells. Deodorize the space by filling a jar halfway with rice and mixing in a few drops of your favorite essential oils. Poke holes in the lid of the jar and place it somewhere in the bathroom (preferably near the toilet) to soak up any unfavorable odors.

13. Use grapefruit and salt to remove bathtub grime

Bathtubs can have some questionable grime accumulate with regular use. Since grapefruit is naturally acidic, it can cut through the buildup and leave you with a squeaky-clean tub. Cut a grapefruit in half and cover the open half in salt. Use it like a sponge and scrub away all the dirt and grime.

14. Remove the vent fan to clean

Your exhaust fan typically sees a lot of use, but rarely gets the cleaning it needs. It’s easy to forget about or not think about it in the first place.

Remove the vent cover and clean it in hot, soapy water and use a can of compressed air to get the dust off of the fan. Then wipe down the fan with disinfectant and replace the cover.

15. Reduce humidity with silica gel packets

The humidity in your bathroom can cause mold, especially in places that don’t get a lot of airflows, like in cabinets. Save those little silica gel packets that come in boxes when you buy certain items (like shoes) and keep them in your bathroom cabinets. They’ll help collect moisture from the air and prevent mold from forming in your cabinets. You can also use a dehumidifier if there’s not a lot of ventilation in your bathroom.

16. Wash mildew from shower liner by using bleach

Your shower curtain liner can get pretty gross after a while and it’s common to see mildew forming on it. But instead of buying a new liner curtain every time it gets bad, you can wash it with some bleach along with your normal laundry detergent.

This should kill off the mildew, but if it doesn’t after one wash, you can scrub the leftover places with a brush and some bleach, then wash it again.

ceiling moldceiling mold

17. Create a bleach solution to get rid of ceiling mold

The corners of your bathroom ceiling can grow mold from all the humidity and condensation, which we all know is not just terrible to look at, but can be hazardous to your health.

To get rid of mold, spray a disinfectant on the area and wipe it down. Then mix 1/2 cup of bleach with a half-gallon of water and wipe down the area with it. If you can still see mold after the area is dry, simply wipe it down again with the bleach solution until it’s gone.

18. Warm up the bathroom before cleaning

Did you know that many bathroom cleaning hacks and products actually work better when it’s warm in the room? Run a hot shower for a few minutes before you start cleaning to make your products work better. You don’t need to fog up the whole bathroom and make it feel like a sauna, but run the shower for long enough that the temperature increases by a few degrees.

19. Wax the shower to prevent grime and soap scum

This might be our favorite of all the bathroom cleaning hacks.

Soap scum and other grime can quickly accumulate on your shower walls, but covering them with some wax can prevent that from happening. Clean your shower as you normally would and make sure that it’s completely dry.

Grab some car wax, put a bit on a cloth, then rub it onto the shower walls. Leave the wax to dry for a few minutes, then buff it with a new cloth. Just don’t do it to the floors or else you might find yourself slipping all over the place!

20. Remove the toilet seat when cleaning

Even when you clean your toilet regularly, there are still small spots that are hard to reach — like where your toilet seat is screwed into the toilet.

Use a screwdriver to completely remove the seat and clean around the screw holes before putting the seat back on.

21. Squeegee daily

Keep a squeegee in your shower and use it on the walls each time you shower. This prevents moisture buildup, which causes mold, and will keep your walls cleaner for longer since it washes away soap scum.

22. Make a paste to remove caulk stains

The caulk around your bathtub, shower, toilet and sink can end up looking pretty bad. Even regular cleaning doesn’t always get rid of stains left behind in caulk by dirt and mold. If you do spot some stains, make a paste out of baking soda and water, apply it to the caulk and let it sit for a few hours. Rinse it off and you’ll have cleaner caulk!

bathroom cleaning hacks using a lemonbathroom cleaning hacks using a lemon

23. Use lemon to prevent stinky drains

When there’s every type of waste imaginable going down the drains in your bathroom, it’s understandable that they might begin to stink a little. To get rid of the smell, dump 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, then add 1/2 cup of lemon juice.

Don’t use the drain for an hour or two and let the solution do its job. Then rinse it by running hot water down the drain to leave it smelling fresh!

24. Prevent rust spots with clear nail polish

You might have seen bathrooms with red rings stained on the counters or in the bathtub from rusty metal product cans (shaving foam, hairspray, etc). To prevent these from forming, cover the bottom of metal cans with clear nail polish.

25. Clean the toilet tank with dish soap and vinegar

We often focus on cleaning the toilet bowl, because it’s visible and we have to look at it every day. But the tank is just as important and cleaning it can lead to a cleaner bowl that doesn’t stink. Remove the lid of the tank and add a few drops of liquid dish soap and a cup of vinegar.

Scrub the tank using a brush with a long handle (not the same brush you use to clean your toilet bowl), then let it sit for a couple of hours. Flush the toilet and put the lid back on and you’ll have a cleaner, less stinky toilet.

Consistency is key with bathroom cleaning hacks

Using these bathroom cleaning hacks, you’ll have a sparkling bathroom in no time! Just remember that consistency is key when it comes to cleaning — don’t wait too long between cleanings, or else your bathroom will end up being more difficult to clean. But cleaning every week will make it easy and make your bathroom a place you enjoy.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

What is Disposable Income?

Disposable income is the amount of money that an individual or household has to spend or save after income taxes have been deducted.

Sometimes referred to as disposable personal income (or DPI) or disposable earnings, disposable income is closely monitored by government economists because it is a key indicator of the overall health of the economy.

Disposable income is also the foundation of your personal budget, as it is the starting point for how you decide to spend your money.

Understanding what disposable income is (and how it differs from discretionary income) is key to creating and living comfortably within your budget.

Read on to learn how to quickly calculate your disposable income, and then use this number to work towards your financial goals.

Why Disposable Income Is Important

Disposable income is usually defined as the amount of money you keep after federal, state, and local taxes and other mandatory deductions are subtracted from gross earnings.

401(k) contributions, deductions for other employer-sponsored benefits, as well as any assignments of support (such as child support) are excluded from the calculation. These costs are considered part of your disposable earnings.

Disposable income is an important number not just for consumers, but also the nation as a whole.

The average disposable income of the country is used by analysts to measure consumer spending, payment ability, probable future savings, and the overall health of a nation’s economy.

International economists use national measures of disposable income to compare economies of different countries.

On an individual level, your disposable income is also a key economic indicator because this is the actual amount of money you have to spend or save.

For example, if your salary is $60,000, you don’t actually have $60,000 to spend over the course of the year.

If you live in Connecticut, for example, you would pay $6,187.50 in federal income tax, $2,100 in state tax, $3,720 in social security tax, and $870 for medicare. Your disposable income could land at $47,317. This is what you would have to spend on everything else in your life, such as housing, transportation, food, health insurance and other necessities.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should spend all of your disposable income. Another thing to consider is disposable vs. discretionary income. This will tell you actually how much money you have to play with.

Disposable Income vs. Discretionary Income

Although they’re often confused with one another, disposable income is completely different from discretionary income.

While disposable income is your income minus only taxes, discretionary income takes into account the costs of both taxes and other essential expenses. Essential expenses include rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, insurance, clothing, and more.

Discretionary income is what you can have leftover after the essentials are subtracted. This is what you can spend on nonessential or discretionary items.

Some costs that fall under the discretionary category are dining out, vacations, recreation, and luxury items, like jewelry. Although internet service and your cell phone may seem like necessities, these expenses are considered discretionary expenses.

As you might expect, discretionary income is always less than disposable income. When you subtract discretionary income from disposable income, the amount you come up is how much you can put towards savings.

Calculating Disposable Income

Disposable earnings refers to the amount of earnings left over after mandatory federal, state and local deductions. But disposable income is not necessarily the same as your take-home pay.

Deductions from your paycheck may include additional items such as health insurance, retirement plan contributions, and health savings accounts. These deductions are voluntary, not mandatory.

To calculate your disposable earnings, you can simply subtract federal, state and local taxes, Medicare, and Social Security from your gross earnings. The resulting amount is your disposable income.

You may want to keep in mind, however, that taxes deducted from your paycheck are an estimate.

If you have a history of getting a large refund or having a large amount of taxes due, it may be worth reviewing your withholdings through your employer.

This could help you adjust the withholdings so it is closer to the actual expected tax that will be calculated when you file. You can then plan accordingly.

Even if you’re a contractor or freelancer, or if you made additional income from side gigs along with your salary, you can still calculate your disposable income.

This requires subtracting your quarterly tax payments and any additional taxes you will owe from your overall income. You can then determine your monthly after-tax income.

Setting aside money to pay taxes can also help you budget with your disposable income.

Disposable Income Budgeting

Calculating your disposable income is a key first step in preparing a budget. You need to know how much you have to spend in order to plan your monthly spending and saving.

A personal budget puts you in control of your disposable income and helps you make financial decisions. It forces you to take a closer look at how you’re spending your money.

Here are a few ideas that could be helpful when developing a budget based on disposable income.

Tracking Spending

Disposable income is what’s coming into your account every month. It’s a good idea to also determine what is going out each month.

To do this, you can gather up bank and credit card statements, as well as receipts, from the past three months or so, and then list all of your monthly spending (both essential and discretionary/nonessential).

track your spending for a month. You can do this with a phone app, by carrying a small notebook and jotting down everything you buy, or by saving all of your receipts and logging it later.

This can be an eye-opening exercise. Many of us have no idea how much we’re spending on the little things, like morning coffees, and how much they can add up to at the end of the month.

Once you see your spending laid out in black and white, you may find some easy ways to cut back, such as getting rid of subscriptions and streaming services that you rarely use, brewing coffee at home, cooking more and getting less take-out, or getting rid of a pricy gym membership and working out at home.

Setting Goals And Spending Targets

Tracking income and spending can provide a great starting point for setting financial goals and spending targets.

Goals are things that a person aims for in the short- or long-term—like paying off student loans or buying a new car.
Spending targets are how much you want to spend each month in general categories in order to have money left over to put towards your savings goals.

Since essential spending often can’t be adjusted, spending targets are typically for discretionary income.

One option for budgeting disposable income is the 50/30/20 plan. This suggests spending about 50% on necessities, 30% on discretionary items, and then putting aside 20% for savings and other long-term goals.

These percentages are general guidelines, however, and can be adjusted as needed based on individual circumstances.
For example, if you live in a competitive housing area, rent may take up a larger portion of your expenses, and you may have to bump up necessity spending to 55% or 60% and decrease fun money to 25% or 20% instead.

Or, if you are saving for something in the near term, like a car or a wedding, you may want to temporarily bump up the savings category, and pull back unnecessary spending for a few months.

The Takeaway

Disposable income is a key concept in budgeting, as it refers to the income that’s leftover after you pay taxes.
Disposable income is distinctly different from discretionary income, which is what remains after you subtract other necessary costs from your disposable income. You might think of discretionary income as your “fun money.”

Knowing how much disposable income you have is the foundation for putting together a simple budget that allows for necessary expenses, having fun, while also saving for the future.

Want to get started budgeting, but not sure where to begin? Consider signing up for a SoFi Money® cash management account.

With SoFi Money, you can easily track your weekly spending right in your dashboard in the app.

SoFi Money also offers savings features like “vaults” that make it easy to put money aside for your short- and long-term financial goals.

Save, spend, and earn all in one place with SoFi Money.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Source: sofi.com

5 Ways to Negotiate with Your Credit Card Company

To get out of debt, you need a plan and you need to execute that plan. To help, the Credit.com team shares these 8 ways you can approach how to pay off debt and leave some, if not all, of your financial burden behind:

  1. Gather your data—bills, credit reports, credit Score, etc.

  2. Make a list of your debts and income

  3. Lower your interest rates

  4. Pay more than you have to pay

  5. Earn more money

  6. Spend less money

  7. Create a budget and debt pay-off plan stick to them

  8. Rinse and repeat

Keep this checklist where you can see—like your refrigerator door or your vision board, if you have one, and make it a goal to check a task off the list regularly. More frequently if you want to lower your debt load more quickly.

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1. Gather Your Data

To start to get out debt, start by knowing where you stand. You want to have a complete picture. Here’s what you need to get:

  • Your most recent bill statements for all credit cards and loans, including student loans.
  • Your credit reports, so you can check for accuracy and identify all recorded debts.
  • Your credit score to find out whether you’re eligible to lower your interest rates or for a debt consolidation loan.

2. Make a List of Your Debts and Income

Once you have your data in hand, make a list of all your debts, being sure to include:

  • Creditor’s name
  • Balance
  • Minimum monthly payment
  • Interest rate

Next, list how much you need to pay in order to zero-out the debt’s balance within three years or whatever your target timeframe is. Remember to include items not listed on your credit reports, such as family loans, medical bills and recurring bills, such as groceries and utilities.

And know your monthly take-home pay. This is the baseline you have to work with toward paying down those debts and buying groceries and such. The amount will also give you insight as to whether you need to take advantage of Ways 4 and 5 below—or how much you need to consider ways 4 and 5.

3. Lower Your Interest Rates

Interest on loans or credit cards can make trying to get out of debt seem like running a losing race. The more you owe, the more interest you’re charged and the more you owe. And round the cycle goes.

If you find yourself with more credit card debt or debt from loans than you can handle, one way to at least start getting ahead of that debt is to pay less interest if possible. Here are ways you might lower your interest rates.

Get a Credit Card with a Lower Interest Rate

Depending on your credit rating, you may qualify for a credit card that has a better interest rate than your current card. Better yet, you may qualify for a credit card with an introductory 0% interest rate for 12 or months or more.

You need a credit rating of at least good for the best chances. If you don’t know what your credit rate is, you can get your free Experian VantageScore credit score and rating on Credit.com.

If your credit rating is good or better, look into a low APR credit card and see if you can beat your current APR.

Here’s what a lower credit card interest rate can mean. Say you have a loan or credit card with a $5,000 balance, make payments of $200 and don’t charge anything else to the card:

  • At a 15.24% APR, you’re charged $1,054 for interest and will pay off the balance in 31 months.
  • At a higher APR of 29.96%, you’re charged $2,937 and will pay off the balance in 40 months.

That’s a difference of $1,883 and 9 months of payments. Even lowering your interest rate a few percentage points can make a big difference in how quickly you can get out of debt.

In that same scenario, if you paid an extra $50 a month, for a total of $250 a month, you would pay off the balance in 24 months at 15.24% APR and pay $805 in interest. At the higher APR of $29.96% you would pay off the balance in 29 months and pay $2,014 in interest. Paying just $50 extra a month could shave off 7 to 11 months of payments and save you quite a bit in interest.

You may also be able to negotiate with your credit card issuer to get a lower rate on your current card.

Get a Balance Transfer Credit Card with a Lower Interest Rate or 0% Intro Rate

Another option is to get a balance transfer credit card with a lower interest rate and/or an introductory 0% APR. A balance transfer card lets you transfer balances from your old card to the new card.

If that $5,000 balance on a card at even 29.96% can be transferred to one with 0% interest for 18 months, you that $1,498+ in interest each month. And if you put that money saved, toward the card’s balance, you pay the full $5,000 balance off in just 7 months!

Get a Loan with Lower Interest Rate

Another option to get rid of high-interest debt is a personal loan, other loan or home equity line of credit that has a lower interest rate. Personal loans often charge lower interest rates than credit cards. And, and if you have a home and can tap into its equity, you can get an even better interest rate.

If your car loan is the cause of your debt, you may be able to refinance a high-rate auto loan.

Consolidate Student Loans

If student loans have you in debt, look into student loan consolidation and income-based repayment at StudentLoans.gov.

4. Pay More than You Have to

There’s no law that says you have to make only the monthly minimum payment on your credit card or loan. You can pay more. However, if you pay your mortgage off early, make sure there’s no prepayment penalty.  And, for a loan, make sure your extra payments go to the principal and not the interest.

Look at that $5,000 credit card bill to see how making more than the minimum payment can help. If your monthly payment is $114, you’ll pay on that card for more than five years to pay it off. And you’ll pay a total of $7,292 with $2,292 in interest.

Up that $114 payment to $300 and the card is paid off in just 19 months and you pay only $642 in interest.

The same principle applies to any loan—a mortgage, a car loan or home equity line of credit.

5. Earn More Money

Another way to get out of debt is to earn more money. That doesn’t have to mean a new job or a raise—although those would help. It can simply mean taking on a side gig or other tactic to add some extra money for a time.

One of the Credit.com staffers walks dogs on the weekend for a few extra dollars.

Other options include taking online surveys, Acorn, an online app that lets you automatically invest your spare change and doing odd jobs, even babysitting, one day a week.

6. Spend Less Money

The flip side of earing more is spending less. Ideally, depending on how far out of debt you need to get, you might do both. And there are a lot of ways to save a little that can add up—from eating out one less day a week to skipping your morning coffee out or taking your own snacks to the movies rather than paying $30 for popcorn, candy and a soda.

The extra money you save—just like any extra you earn—can go straight to paying down your debt.

7. Create a Budget and Debt Pay-Off Plan and Stick to Them

Before and again after you’ve gathered your total debt and have decided how much extra you can pay each month and have adjusted interest rates and earning or spending, you want to have a goal and to know where you’re heading and how you’re doing. A budget and/or a debt management plan or debt pay-off plan can help and they don’t have to be complicated. In fact, many online banks and credit unions offer free budgeting tools.

A budget shows you what you’re spending where and where it makes the most sense to put your money whether it’s from interest saved or dollars earned. The latter becomes your debt pay-off plan. It can be a part of your budget or separate.

A good way to approach a debt pay-off plan is to take the total payoff number you calculated in Way number 2 and use it as a goal to work towards by:

  • Totaling the three-year or your chosen timeframe pay-off amount for all your credit cards.
  • Adding the monthly payments for all other debts.
  • Writing down the result as “Your Total Monthly Payment.”

Once you have that:

  • Determine if you can afford to pay the Total Monthly Payment until your debt is paid off.
    • If not, contact a credit counseling agency and/or bankruptcy attorney for advice. Remember though, bankruptcy has a huge impact on your credit score, and if you’re able to work out a payment plan with your creditors, it can be avoided.
  • If doable, pick one debt to pay off first. Start with paying off the debt with the highest interest rate or lowest balance. That’s your “target debt.” Paying your target debt off first is known as the “debt snowball” or “avalanche” method.
  • Set up “auto pay” for the required minimum payment for all but your target debt.
  • Pay as much as possible toward target debt until that debt is paid off.
  • Choose a new target debt and pay extra toward that one, and so on.

8. Rinse and Repeat

Once your budget and debt pay-off plan are in motion, don’t want to get too comfortable. Track your spending and habits closely to make sure you’re making progress. And make adjustments when needed. Revisit your budget and adjust as you can to stay the course until your debt is paid off.

Create an Emergency Fund

You may think that while paying off debt you don’t have money to save, but saving is important. Life happens, and if anything comes up, like a job loss, medical bill or car repair, you need to be able to cover it.

The suggested amount to have in an emergency fund is three to six months’ worth of expenses. If that amount isn’t possible, aim for one months’ worth, which is still a great starting point.

Whether you start saving now or pay some debt down first, make it a goal to have an emergency fund. As you pay down your debt, you can shift some of the money you’re using to pay debt to pay yourself in the form of creating a savings account for emergencies.

Stick to It

Just like losing weight, losing debt takes time. But diligence can make it happen. Don’t fret if you need to make adjustments along the way or if you slip up. It’s not about a quick fix, it’s about taking control and changing your habits and behaviors so you can achieve your financial goals.

Source: credit.com

7 Investments You Can Make to Help Fund Racial Justice

Racial inequality and injustices have been in the news a lot as of late, with protests turning into riots and the conversation becoming an impassioned subject of public debate. Uncomfortable as these conversations can be, the inequalities in our society are clear and apparent, leading many to wonder what they can do to make a difference.

But what can you do as an average investor — if you’re not a politician, a police officer, or a billionaire mogul? What power do you have to effect change and bring racial equality into the equation?

It turns out your investment strategy can be a major force in the push for change in racial equality across the United States and beyond.

How to Fund Racial Justice With Your Investments

One of the biggest ways you can effect change with your investment choices is to take part in a strategy known as impact investing — specifically impact investing designed to afford urban communities with the same opportunities afforded to white communities.

By maintaining an investment portfolio that’s focused on generating returns while funding social health through the support of racial equality, you’ll not only enjoy monetary gains, you’ll sleep well at night knowing you’ve lent a helping hand in the fight against racial injustice.

Here’s how:

1. Invest in Companies That Serve Urban Communities

As a result of systemic racism, Black communities aren’t afforded the same opportunities in many ways. Many of the publicly traded companies that serve minority communities are largely ignored by retail investors, institutional investors, and asset managers, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t represent strong opportunities for growth.

Companies that serve Black communities include:

  • Affordable Housing Stocks. A major source of racial inequality in the United States is found in the housing space. According to USA Facts, Black Americans are the least likely consumers to own a home; much of this is the result of a lack of opportunity, leading to low income. There are several publicly traded financial institutions and construction companies with a focus on the provision of affordable housing, and growth in these companies will help to shrink the divide between Black and white homeowners.
  • Black Media. The vast majority of talking heads you see on the news are white. The lack of Black representation in media means the needs of Black communities don’t become well-known — after all, you can’t solve a problem you don’t know about. By investing in Black media companies, you’ll give minorities a stronger voice, which will ultimately result in a better quality of life within these communities.
  • Urban Education. One of the biggest opportunities that Black communities miss out on is a quality education. According to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, although college enrollment is up among African American students, they are not equally represented at different institution types. Black students only make up about 12% of the student population in public institutions and 13% of the student population at private nonprofit institutions, but 29% of the population at private for-profit institutions. Only 15% of college-educated Black students attended a highly selective college, with only 8% attending an elite research institution. Moreover, only 29% of African Americans aged 25 to 29 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to about 45% of white Americans in the same age group. Without a quality education, members of minority communities may struggle to gain the skills, certifications, and employment opportunities they need to earn significant income and become successful. By investing in urban education companies, you’ll help support the improvement of educational systems within these communities, helping to solve one of the biggest problems in the racial inequality conversation.

Pro tip: You can earn a free share of stock (up to $200 value) when you open a new trading account from Robinhood. With Robinhood, you can customize your portfolio with stocks and ETFs, plus you can invest in fractional shares.

2. Invest in Companies With Management and Board Members of Color

Publicly traded companies with Black owners, management teams, and board members will also help to cure the racial divide in the United States for multiple reasons:

  • Income Divide. The highest paying positions in Black-owned companies and those with diverse leadership boards are held by minorities. As a result, supporting companies that put minorities in high-income positions will help to alleviate the Black-white income divide across the United States.
  • Addressing Minority Needs. Large companies serve the masses, and large companies owned and managed by whites are likely to create products and services that cater to the white population. By investing in companies with owners and management teams of color, you’ll be supporting organizations that are more likely to address the needs of minorities with their products and services.
  • Creating Opportunity. By investing in companies with diverse managers and that value diversity, you’ll be supporting businesses that are more likely to provide good employment opportunities to minority applicants who may not have had access to these high-paying opportunities otherwise.

3. Invest in Companies That Support Charities and Causes That Benefit Urban Communities

Impact investing is centered around environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) concerns. Even companies that don’t expressly cater to Black communities or have many minorities in leadership positions have the ability to effect major social change by making equitable donations to nonprofit companies that serve Black communities.

Beyond donations to nonprofit charities serving urban communities, some of the largest companies in the United States are launching social awareness campaigns related to racial equity. Some of the most significant campaigns and contributors include:

  • Nike. Nike recently flipped its famous tagline, “Just Do It,” on its head, spending millions to run an ad based on the tagline,“For Once, Don’t Do It.” The ad urged consumers not to ignore the racial divide in the United States and not to turn their back on racial diversity. Instead, the ad urged consumers to make a change to cure racial inequity, promoting the idea that nobody wins until everybody wins with the hashtag #UntilWeAllWin.
  • Walmart. Walmart recently announced its commitment to set $100 million aside to be donated through the newly formed center on racial equity. These donations will be made to companies that are focused on solving the social justice issues across the country while providing a better quality of life within African American communities.

4. Invest in Funds That Support Racial Justice

There are plenty of investors out there who don’t like the idea of picking their own individual stocks. After all, there’s quite a bit of research and time commitment that goes into choosing investments this way. However, even if you don’t choose individual stocks based on their social merits, you can still choose to invest in diversified funds that support racial equality.

In 2018, the first exchange-traded fund (ETF) focused on racial empowerment was launched. The fund, known as the Impact Shares NAACP Minority Empowerment ETF, only invests in companies that are geared toward solving the racial divide across the United States.

Although there aren’t many ETFs that focus on racial justice at the moment, the Impact Shares NAACP Minority Empowerment ETF has seen compelling performance, nearly doubling in value from March of 2020 to February of 2021. There are many ESG-centered funds out there and hopefully their success will encourage more funds to follow the racial justice theme.

5. Look Into Crowdfunding Opportunities

Thanks to the incredible technological advancements that have been made over the past few decades, you don’t have to be an angel investor to own a piece of private equity. Moreover, making small investments in the right opportunities could make a much larger impact on racial justice than you think.

A quick search for “crowdfunding platforms” online will yield a long list of companies that give you the ability to invest in small startups with big ideas. As you browse through the available companies, you’ll learn about their goals, management teams, finances, and more.

There are plenty of new companies being born every day that are owned by, managed by, and cater to minority communities. As a crowdfunding investor, you can tap into the growth of these companies while supporting their advancements in racial justice with investments of as little as $10. You might even find Black-owned startups that cater to minorities right in your community that you can support directly.

Pro tip: Before you add any stocks to your portfolio, make sure you’re choosing the best possible companies. Stock screeners like Stock Rover can help you narrow down the choices to companies that meet your individual requirements. Learn more about our favorite stock screeners.

6. Consider Peer-to-Peer Lending

A well-diversified investment portfolio will include more than stocks and private equity asset allocation. Although peer-to-peer lending is a relatively new investment strategy, it is a model that’s gaining steam because it’s returning incredibly strong yields for those who take part.

As with crowdfunding, when investing as part of a peer-to-peer lending program, you’ll have the ability to learn about the borrowers for whom you decide to fund loans. Often, peer-to-peer lending platforms will even provide investors with pictures of the people who are asking for loans and what they plan to do with the funding.

By funding loans for minorities, you’ll be providing these borrowers with access to credit and capital they may not have had otherwise. With debt and the proper management of debt being an important part of financial growth for the average American consumer, funding personal or small-business loans for minority borrowers is a great way to lend a helping hand in the fight against racial injustice.

7. Work With Financial Professionals of Color

According to CarsonGroup.com, a staggering 86.3% of personal financial advisors are white. Even so, with more than 537,000 personal financial advisors out there, plenty of them are of minority heritage.

By working with a personal financial advisor of color, you’ll be doing two key things:

  1. Helping to Solve Income Inequality. One of the biggest disconnects between races is income. According to the Economic Policy Institute, wage gaps across the United States are growing, with the Black-white wage gap among average consumers reaching 26.5% in 2019. That means, on average, a white person is likely to earn 26.5% more than a Black person with the same job. Much of this comes from a lack of access to affordable, quality education among minorities. However, the story on income goes deeper. Many minorities who do achieve a higher level of education still find the task of landing a good job or getting potential customers to believe in their new business difficult. By hiring professionals of color to help with your investing ventures, you help to reduce the income gap between whites and minorities.
  2. Invest From a Minority’s Point of View. Investing with financial professionals of color means you can benefit from their perspective on your investment options, both in terms of returns and social impact you may want to achieve. Because they know the issues they faced growing up, through college, and in their careers, financial professionals of color will likely look to help people in their communities through their investments and the advice they give their customers.

Final Word

Investment decisions should never be made solely based on the fact that a company is Black owned, caters to minority communities, or for any other single reason. However, there are plenty of minority-owned-and-operated businesses that could benefit as greatly from your investment as your investment will benefit you in the long run.

As with any other investment, investments aimed at funding racial justice should be carefully thought out, well-researched moves. By looking into what the companies you invest in are doing and ensuring that their activities are helping to cure social inequalities rather than exacerbate them, you’ll sleep well at night knowing your investments are making a difference.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Create a Family Budget (Easy Step-By-Step Budgeting)

How to create a family budget

With all the demands of running a household, it’s hard to find time to make a family budget—especially if the amount of money left at the end of the month is less than you want. It’s important to look household finances squarely in the eye, because that’s the only way to control them; otherwise, they control you.

Learning how to establish a household budget takes time, so grab some coffee and set aside at least a few hours. It’s better to wait for a day when you don’t have pressing obligations than to cobble together a monthly budget plan that doesn’t work.

Don’t let money management stress you out. Start with a financial goal. Maybe it’s paying off debt, or perhaps it’s a college fund. You don’t have to justify your financial goals to anyone, but envisioning it can help keep you on track.

If you’re feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, take a deep breath. We’re here to teach you exactly how to make a family budget step-by-step – so you can stress less, save more, and sleep better!

Step #1) Choose Your Budgeting Tools: Paper or Electronic?

If you’re scratching your head and asking yourself, “How do I start a family budget?”, simply begin with the basics —whatever budgeting tool you’ll use to keep track of the family finances.

Using a budget worksheet with pen and paper can be just as accurate as electronic budgeting tools, but financial software certainly makes the job a lot easier. It also reduces errors.

If paper feels right, an accounting ledger doesn’t cost much and is designed for credits and debits within your bank statements. In everyday language, credits are incoming dollars and debits are outgoing. You’ll also need a budget calculator.

Make it easier on yourself to establish a household budget with a simplified budget tracker from Mint.com. Instead of manually writing down and accounting for each transaction on a regular basis, intuitive software creates running totals, tracks fixed expenses, highlights discretionary spending, makes suggestions, and shows how debits and credits influence each other for your bottom line.

Step #2) Bring Your Bank Statements to the Table

Everything that shows incoming and outgoing money—such as earnings statements from sources of income, receipts, student loan interest, bills and credit card statements—has a place at the budget table. First, separate them into two categories for incoming and outgoing, suggests U.S. News and World Report.

You’ll need a total for both categories in your family budget. This is where many budgeters get a bit nervous, but don’t be. The incoming amount might be smaller than the outgoing, but an easy family budget will help you control that.

Step #3) Locate Fixed and Variable Expenses

The outgoing category needs more attention after you’ve got a grand total. The next step is breaking debits into subcategories. Your family budget might include Utilities (electric, water, etc.), Secured Debts (mortgage), Unsecured Debts (credit cards), and Discretionary Spending (lunch, clothing, etc.).

One of the best budgeting tips we can offer: discretionary spending adds up fast. A few dollars here for movie tickets and a few more there for dining out sometimes total more than a fixed bill that you pay every month. This is the subcategory where you can create the most change.

Step #4) Set Up the Ledger, Spreadsheet or Budget Software

Now that you’ve mastered the art form and know how to plan a budget for your family, take your initial totals and categories prepared, then add everything to an electronic spreadsheet, budget software or ledger. This is where the budget begins to take shape. The short term goal is to get your debits (expenses) less than your credits (income).

Step #5) Control Discretionary Spending

With the numbers in black and white, you can approach the monthly budget more realistically. Discretionary spending might be the only category where you can find and divert money toward paying off debt and building up savings.

A tried and true way to manage discretionary spending is the envelope method. The money you allocate for everyday expenses goes into an envelope each month—that’s right, cash. Today Money explains that with cash in hand, you’re more aware and less likely to overspend.
Control is the first step toward peace of mind.

Family budget

Step #6) Pay Off Debt

Paying off debt is the main goal of many families and might be the reason why you’re researching how to make a household budget. The only way to get there is to submit at least the minimum payment each month. Paying more than the minimum obviously reduces debt faster, but it can also mean you’ll pay less interest.

Check with each creditor to be sure extra payments will post the way you want them to. In some cases, interest is a fixed amount that won’t change, regardless of whether you pay more each month. It might be worth getting a free credit score in order to shop lenders and contemplate loan consolidation at a lower rate. If your credit is looking a little weak, don’t worry too much. Just stick to your family budget and make it a priority to pay off your debt, you’ll see your credit score start to improve.

Money management is both simple and complex – but once you learn how to make a family budget step-by-step, grabbing control of your finances will become a walk in the park. It’s only a matter of knowing what you earn, what you owe, and where money is spent. What makes it complex is deciding where to cut back and where to divert more money. For some families, debt is a real problem. Without enough resources, debt can mount and credit scores can tumble.

But there’s hope.

If payments are higher than you can manage and you can’t find extra money, a free credit counseling service, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, can help. (Be wary of services that charge a fee and promise to reduce debt.)

A realistic budget can help you meet your financial goals for your family. Sign up for Mint.com to get a full suite of budgeting tools for free.

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Source: mint.intuit.com